A Sag Harbor landscape artist has turned her attention to making shark tournaments on Long Island and on the Vineyard more environmentally friendly.
April Gornik is raising money to pay for and provide free circle hooks to fishing captains who participate in this month’s 24th annual 2010 Monster Shark Tournament in Oak Bluffs. The tournament is July 22 through July 24.
If ingested, circle hooks do less damage to internal organs, and often the hook gets caught around the fish’s mouth, in its lip. They are the hook of choice in catch and release tournaments.
So far Ms. Gornick has donated 21,300 hooks to fishing tournaments and their shark fishermen.
She donated 7,500 hooks to the Star Island Yacht Club Shark Tournament held on June 17 with 150 boats; and she gave 5,000 hooks to the Carl Darenberg tournament held on June 25 for 100 boats. The Carl Darenberg tournament is the oldest fishing tournament in Montauk.
Ms. Gornick donated 2,000 hooks to the Montauk Boatman’s and Captain’s Association for their shark tournament on July 10, where 40 boats are expected.
Anticipating there will be 135 boats participating in the Oak Bluffs shark tournament, she has prepackaged in boxes of 100, a total of 6,800 hooks. The hooks donated are Mustad #39960D, 13/0 and also 14/0 hooks. She said she spoke to Steve James, president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club and he agreed to accept the hooks and hand them out to the fishing captains. Larry’s Tackle Shop is the local sponsor for the hook give-away.
The Oak Bluffs shark tournament is organized by the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, which claims to have over a 90 per cent catch and release rate.
“This is about improving, not stopping these tournaments,” Ms. Gornick said in an interview.
“About a year and a half ago, I heard about a shark tournament in Montauk . . . I didn’t realize there were three of them. When I heard there was a protest I stood out there for an afternoon and protested the tournament. Afterwards, I thought to myself that it was a waste of time. I started doing some research. I came home and said, I am not going to do that again. It had no impact. I wanted to do something that had an effect on shark mortality, instead of yelling at people who were enjoying a day out at sea.”
Ms. Gornik is a member of Save Sag Harbor, an organization committed to preserving the local character of Sag Harbor, which she said “is increasingly becoming more and more like the Hamptons.” The idea of preserving a quality of life for the town inspired her not to end shark tournaments, but simply make them more environmentally friendly.
“I don’t want to stop anyone’s tournament, but I would love for them to be a model for other tournaments,” she said.
She found a good model to follow in the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge in Sarasota, Fla.
She made contact with fishermen and scientists and found that giving circle hooks was a step in the right direction. Other steps in the greening of shark tournaments include eliminating the practice of stringing up dead carcasses. Photographs of sharks being caught and released are now promoted over the traditional return to port with a huge, scary-looking, bloody creature to hang from the dock in a public spectacle.
Edgartown harbor master Charles Blair said he is a big fan of circle hooks, and recalled using the hooks when he went tub trawling for cod in the 1980s.
Steve Purcell, owner of Larry’s Tackle Shop, is another big supporter. “Tournaments down south, catch-and-release tournaments, are using circle hooks for the catching of big fish like sailfish and marlin. They even use them for not-so-big fish,” Mr. Purcell said. “The hook gets the fish in the lip and there is a better chance of it being landed. It is also better handling,” he added. Ms. Gornick would like to hear from anyone interested in more information about her efforts. “Act locally and think globally,” she said. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 11th annual fluke fishing tournament, sponsored by the Veterans Foreign War Post 9261, will take place this weekend. Peter Herrmann, past commander and longtime organizer of the event said he is not expecting as many fishermen as last year.
Last year the tournament attracted 180 anglers. “Personally, I think there will be less, but I would be happy if there were 100,” Mr. Herrmann said.
Fishermen report the fluke season has been a bit slow, although the recreational fluke fishery has become quite popular in recent years; 20 years ago, fluke were not on anyone’s list of sport fish. But the restoration of the fishery has brought new converts. Mr. Herr-mann’s tournament is the Island’s premiere fluke fishing contest.
The tournament is mostly about kids, he said this week. Registration is $20 for adults, $10 for teens and seniors, with kids 12 and under free. Registration forms are at Coop’s Bait and Tackle Shop, Larry’s Tackle Shop, Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop and Shark’s Landing.
The weigh-in will be at the VFW Post headquarters on Towanticut avenue in Oak Bluffs on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. After the last weigh-in closes at 7 p.m. on Sunday, there will be a cookout and an awards ceremony. Mr. Herrmann said local businesses have been very generous this year. So, even if a young angler comes in with a small fish, there is still a big chance he’ll go home with a prize.
There is no distinction between boat and shore fishing in the tournament. Mr. Herrmann said team competition among adults remains a strong component of the contest. The teams adopt special names, and the winning team takes home the best prize of all: bragging rights for the rest of the fishing season.