CAPE MAY – A near record-breaking 820-pound mako was caught by a five-man crew aboard a 31-foot sportfishing boat Saturday, May 16 and weighed in at South Jersey Marina in Cape May.
The 11-foot shark was lifted off the deck of the Missfit, captained and owned by Rob Kurian of Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, at about 11 p.m., according to a news release from South Jersey Marina.
Kurian said the fish had been hooked hours earlier in Wilmington Canyon, an undersea canyon off the Atlantic coast, on the fishing team’s maiden voyage aboard the Missfit, which is docked at Shawcrest Marina in Wildwood.
Gary Blakla of Philadelphia was the rodman who hauled the shark in, he said. Assisting Blakla and Kurian on board were Fred Dirsh Sr., Fred Dirsh Jr. and Paul Tsoukalas.
Kurian said the mako, which had a girth of 60 inches, was the largest fish he had ever caught.
“Oh, by far,” he said in a telephone interview Monday evening. “To catch a shark that big was a blessing, especially our first time out.”
He said bringing in a fish that size was a team effort, and he expressed gratitude to South Jersey Marina and everyone else who assisted.
The Missfit crew had spent the early morning Saturday filling the boat’s chest with yellowfin tuna and then decided to spend the rest of the day honing their skills for the tournament, according to reports.
They didn’t have to wait long before the mako was hooked.
Armed with only moderate stand-up tackle, Blakla battled the behemoth for about an hour and 10 minutes before the crew took over at the side of the vessel. The catch took more than an hour to boat, according to reports.
“She was jumping all over the ocean,” Fred Dirsh Jr. said. “It was an unbelievable sight to see.”
After the monster fish was boatside, it presented an unexpected second battle: how to get it in the boat.
“We took some time to collect ourselves and figure out what to do next,” Kurian said.
After several attempts the shark was boated, where it took up most of the available deck space.
“It took all five of us giving everything we had left to get it in,” Kurian said, “and by that time we knew we were going to be late getting in.”
Once the shark was secured and the boat was underway, the crew contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to notify their families that they would be later than expected and not to worry. The Coast Guard relayed the messages to their loved ones and then later waited for them at South Jersey Marina to watch them weigh their fish.
The catch sets the bar high for the fishing season and the 35th annual South Jersey Shark Fishing Tournament being held Wednesday through Saturday, June 10-13.
It was more than twice the size of last year’s winning fish and larger than any fish weighed in recent tournament history.
“Three weeks from now that fish would have been worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” said Rick Weber, owner of South Jersey Marina and Tournaments. “We’ve seen some great fish come in at the tournament, but nothing like this.”
The state record-holding mako is an 856-pounder caught in 1994, also in Wilmington Canyon.
The tournament weigh-ins, which take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons, are open to the public. Last year saw a field of 97 boats compete for more than $320,000.
Weber said that if current fishing conditions continue, this year will likely see an increase in both participants and purse size.
“Anglers are natural optimists; we see a big fish and think, ‘I bet there’s one bigger out there.’”
For information on the South Jersey Shark Tournament contact South Jersey Marina at 609-884-0177 or southjerseytournaments.com.
Kurian and crew compete as Team Missfits/3-D Sportfishing aboard Kurian’s boat and the 3-D, owned by Fred Dirsh Jr., who along withTsoukalas is also a licensed captain.
Missfit Sportfishing is available for charter by calling 267-228-3612. For 3-D charters call 215-787-7526.