For as long as I can remember, I have always had a fascination with things that could kill me. Not in a nihilistic way, mind you. Things like dinosaurs, hurricanes, astronomy (How does this fit? Try stepping into a vacuum or a black hole for a few minutes), earthquakes and, yes, sharks have always caught my attention.
My wife and I planned our weeklong trip to Edisto Island this past winter for the first week of June. Edisto Island is our favorite vacation spot because of the laid-back attitude of the islanders, which inspired the phrase, “I’m on Edislow time,” it’s beaches, lack of commercialism, food and relative ease of travel.
A few days before we were to leave, my wife asked me if I’d heard about the Shark Tournament. When I told her I hadn’t, she pointed me to the Thirsty Fish Facebook page. One of the posts on the page advertised their annual tournament for June 8, which was the last full day we would be on the island. After doing some more research, I found out that in 2011, someone caught a 470 lb. hammerhead for the win.
I only hoped I would see something close to that. I was not to be disappointed.
Once we were on the island for a few days, I went by the Edisto Watersports and Tackle shop, below the Thirsty Fish, on Dockside Rd. and asked for details. The girl told me to that weigh-in would be from 3-5 that Saturday and to get there early. The dock would fill up early.
Saturday arrived, the day after Tropical Storm Andrea blew past the island, leaving the hottest and most beautiful day of the week. We enjoyed a few hours on the beach, went back to our place, had some lunch and walked the short distance to the dock behind the Thirsty Fish to catch the weigh-ins. We arrived a little after three, and at this point there were about a dozen people gathered to watch. Several of those people turned out to be the ones running the tournament, whether they were the ones assisting with the weigh-ins or keeping track of the contestants.
It was blistering hot and were glad we were still dressed for the beach. I spoke with one of the owners of the establishment (I did not get her name), and she told me there were 27 boats that entered. Most of them were going 10-12 miles offshore to try to reel in a big one. One had already weighed in. A 230 lb. tiger shark from Fontaine Charters next door. She told me they were waiting for half an hour to weigh-in.
This was the fourth year in a row they’ve held the tournament, and it keeps getting bigger, she said. A few years ago, the winner was a 470 lb. hammerhead and was still the tournament record.
She said she had two sons on two separate boats in the competition, Cal and Trey. She was having a hard time deciding who to pull for. I told her to pull for Cal since his name was the shortened version of mine. She agreed.
So we waited.
The time passed slowly from 3 to 4 o’clock. One other boat came in during that time. They had a 125 lb. shark. Later, another one came in holding a small little guy. A 25 pounder.
Then we waited some more. During this time, boats started to come near the dock and idled in the sound a little ways away from the dock. We couldn’t tell if they were participants or onlookers. I had the feeling a few of them were in the tournament, but they were waiting to see what else came in before they shimmied up to the dock to show off their catch.
People began to crowd around the dock. Because we arrived early, we had a great view of the weigh-ins from the upper level. At least we thought we did. When they would string sharks up for weighing, all of the kids — and some adults — crowded the lower level, obscuring most people’s view. (That would be one suggestion I would have for them next year: don’t allow people on the lower level. It disappointed many of the spectators.)
I figured there were several hundred people on the dock at around 5pm when the cut off was for weigh-ins.
As we watched the boats cruise down the sound from the direction of the Atlantic Ocean, we saw several varieties. I don’t know much about boats, so I’ll just say there were big boats, little boats, and even bigger boats.
Just after 5, a medium-sized boat with dual outboards idled toward the dock. It looked like we might have our last contestant. As it cruised past, we saw a shark strapped between the outboards, or, I should say, we saw a shark hanging between the dual outboards. All that was visible was about five feet of the tail section. The rest of the shark disappeared into the water.
It seemed like there was more, much more, of the shark in the water than was out of it.
A ripple of awe and amazement echoed out over the water from the gathered crowd. This was it. This was the climax of what we’ve all been waiting for. This was going to be huge.
And it was.
When the boat pulled alongside the dock, it took several minutes for the men to get a good enough of handle to get a line around the tail so it could be weighed. When the sturdy looking man with glasses on the crank began to reel the shark up and it separated, the entire boat rocked. The crowd gasped.
The shark was okay. The man began to turn the crank, pulling the shark higher. He had a difficult time and stopped at one point to rest. It seemed like the entire crank assembly strained as the shark climbed higher into the air.
“548 pounds!” the man looking at the scale announced. The crowd clapped and cheered in amazement.
The waiting paid off. The end result far outweighed enduring the hot weather and wait. No one left disappointed.
I hope to be there for next year’s tournament. Maybe one of the captains will let me tag along.
- 300-pound shark jumps into boat (nj.com)
- Shark caught off SoCal may set world record (fox5sandiego.com)
- Fish out of water (at the beach) (debrisfromaclutteredmind.wordpress.com)