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Early And Late Take The Bait

Anglers hook, release sharks for points in Madfin Shark Tournament

By: Mike Holliday, OutdoorChannel.com

BOKEELIA, Fla. -- For the four teams fishing the 2012 Madfin Shark Tournament out of The Tarpon Lodge in Bokeelia Island, the bites came early and late, with long periods of inactivity in the middle of the day.

Every team had a visit from the hospital worker in the gray flannel suit as well, as each team hooked a nurse shark, which is a 200-point penalty if the anglers aren’t able to remove the hook before releasing the fish.

“The east wind just killed us today,” said Capt. Bo Johnson of Team Tenacity. “That wind has the water all dirtied up. There was a great bite first thing this morning, and it was over pretty quick.”

Johnson, who is fishing the event with his girlfriend Deidra Bridger, caught the first shark of the morning, a blacktip shark that was landed and released at 9:16. The team received 150 points for the legal fish (over five feet), 150 points for successfully removing the hook, and a 250-point bonus for catching the first shark of the day.

With 550 points before 10 a.m., the team felt like they were off to a good start, but then hooked an estimated 12-foot nurse shark that broke the leader at the boat, stealing 200 points, and they finished the day with 350 points.

Capt. Dave Hoke and his father, Bill Hoke, of Team Hoke Fishing Charters worked the inshore waters of Charlotte Harbor and experienced a similar day, catching and successfully removing the hook from a legal blacktip shark early for 300 points, and breaking off a big nurse shark midday for a 200-point penalty. Without the first shark of the day bonus points, they sit in last place with 100 points.

Another team that found early morning action was Team Redzone with Capt. Jay Withers and Capt. Mike Manis. After landing two undersized blacktip sharks, the duo brought a 6-foot, 6-inch lemon shark to the boat and removed the hook. Lemon sharks are worth 300 points and 300 more for removing the hook vaulted the local fishing guide duo into the lead by noon.

“We were fishing inside Boca Grande Pass from Cape Hayes Reef to Cape Hayes Point, which is a spot we fished a couple of weeks ago for a tournament and caught a couple of lemon sharks and had a big hammerhead caught about 500 yards from us,” Withers said. “We looked outside briefly, and then came to what we know.”

Bait and chum have been an issue for all the teams fishing the event, with the favored baits (bonito and barracuda) difficult to obtain. Withers and Manis were able to fish with barracuda and bonito chunks, and caught their lemon shark on a bonito side.

Handle With Care

BOKEELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- After handling venomous snakes and wrestling alligators, handling sharks comes easy to Capt. Bo Johnson of Team Tenacity. It’s all in how you touch the shark. Literally.

Of the four teams fishing the 2012 Madfin Shark Tournament, only one team doesn’t utilize the tail snare as a means of controlling their sharks boatside. Instead, Johnson prefers to grab the shark with his hands to calm and control the animal while he removes the hook.

“I realized a long time ago that in stressful situations how you touch something determines how it reacts,” Johnson said. “If I grab your arm and pull your roughly towards me, you’re going to react similarly. It’s the same with fish, the more gentle you can be with your fish, the more gentle they are with you and the more chance you’re going to have to get the hook out.

“We do a lot of shark charters, and during every single one of them I touch the fish. I want to know what makes them tick, and when you figure it out you realize that every one of them is the same. Handle them gently and be careful where you grab them.”

Johnson tries to keep his hands just in front or just behind the pectoral fins in areas that a thrashing shark can’t bite, yet locations where he feels he can control the shark and direct its movements. He’ll get a soft yet firm grip on the shark so he knows if it makes a wild move he can control it and push it away from his body, then gently use a dehooking device to remove the hook. Often, the shark never moves.

During tournaments, Johnson likes to calm and control the shark, then quickly grab it and put it in the boat, where he can remove the hook for the extra bonus points.

“I’ll do whatever I have to get the hook back. Most of the times I can remove the hook while the shark is in the water, then there are times when you just have to grab the shark and get it in the boat,” he said. “In a tournament, I want those bonus points.” - Mike Holliday, OutdoorChannel.com

“We had a little bite going, and had a double hook-up. We lost one of the fish, but got the other one up, and it ended up being a 10- or 12-foot nurse shark,” Manis said.

Unfortunately, the shark had swallowed the hook, and after several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve it, the fish bit through the leader, costing Team Redzone 200 points, and leaving them in second place with 400 points.

The hottest action came late in the day for Team Vicious Strikes and Capt. Rob Moore and Paul Michele, who after catching a handful of tiny Atlantic Sharpnose sharks decided to move offshore and fish a wreck about five miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Within 10 minutes of anchoring and putting out bonito chunks, one of the rods doubled over.

“The fish was heavy, but it moved off slowly, not at all like a shark,” said Moore. “I had a suspicion early into the fight what it was.”

After a 20-minute fight, Moore reeled up an estimated 250-pound Goliath grouper, a common catch on the offshore wrecks. Ten minutes later, another rod went off, and it was a Goliath of around 300 pounds.

The team moved to more open water and were immediately rewarded with a double-header, this time a pair of Goliaths in the 300-400 pound range.

“Those fish just killed us,” Michele said. “They take a lot of energy out of you, and you’re just beat up by the time you release them. We moved further out into the sand, and rebaited, thinking we could get away from those Goliaths.”

Within 20 minutes of making the move, the stern rod baited with a bonito chunk on 100-pound braided line and #8 wire leader went off, this time with the fish running hard and coming to the surface. The team felt they had a big shark on, as Michele worked hard to gain line back onto the reel.

“I knew it was a shark, and a nice one,” he said, “and you can’t guess how happy I was to not see another Goliath grouper.”

Michele’s 7-foot bull shark was also a high-point shark, scoring 300 points and another 300 for removing the hook. The release was complicated, however, as the shark made a lunging run at the side of the boat and snapped the rod just after Moore got the tail lasso on the fish.

After rebaiting, Michele fought his second big shark and fourth fish over 250 pounds in less than two hours. This time, the shark came to the boat fairly easily, but was a 9-foot nurse shark.

“At that point, it was getting nasty offshore which made it a little precarious to remove the hook,” Michele said. “We got the tail lasso on the fish, and it spun off, and wrapped up in the leader. I was pretty sure that fish was going to break off and we were going to get a penalty.”

Michele gingerly pumped the fish back to the surface, and this time Moore got a solid tail wrap with the lasso, and followed it up a boat rope around the tail, a strategy that took a turn for the worse when the fish rolled several times, wrapping the rope around Moore’s hand and knotting tight around one of his fingers.

“The rope was pulling tight and I knew I was in trouble. I just pulled back and it took the glove right off of my hand. I was lucky there wasn’t a finger still left in it,” Moore said.

Michele was able to control the shark using the tail lasso, while Moore retrieved the hook, negating the 200-point penalty, the only team that caught a nurse shark in the first day of fishing to do so. That 200-point hook removal along with a 500-point bonus for catching the largest shark of the day gave Team Vicious Strikes 1,100 points and the lead after the first day of the 2012 Madfin Shark Tournament.

Going into the second day of competition with more strong easterly winds forecast, all the teams agreed it was going to be a slow, strategic competition where every shark is going to make or break the daily team scores. While all the teams are looking forward to a later tide and longer morning bite, at least one team in the event is saving some of their energy, and their strategy for the afternoon.

Madfin Statistics
Day One Team Standings Day One Points
Team Vicious Strikes 1,100 Points
Team Redzone 400 Points
Team Tenacity 350 Points
Team Hoke 100 Points

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