A 429-pound porbeagle shark was the winning catch on the first day of the Monster Shark Tournament Friday.

Dan Lundy landed the shark aboard Magellan out of Harwich, captained by Jason Pillsbury.  It was their first time to fish the tournament, which is sponsored by the Boston Big Game Fishing Club and carries a $20,000 prize for the boat that wins the most points.

Spectators gathered four deep late Friday afternoon when Magellan brought her catch to the docks rimming the Oak Bluffs harbor. Boats rigged for big game fishing and flying the black tournament flag filled nearly every slip in the harbor.

Spectators gathered behind fence to watch spectacle with big game fishermen, scientists. — Ray Ewing

The tail of the porbeagle was passed around for people to touch and marine scientists on hand who use the tournament for study were bloody to their elbows as they took tissue samples.

Although the tournament has been controversial in the past, there was no sign of protestors on Friday.

Crowds gathered behind a metal barrier to see the sharks strung, weighed and quartered beneath a blistering sun. Tournament crew in yellow T-shirts and green boots milled about among the scientists, there “opportunistically,” they said, for first dibs on the shark tissue.

As the boats docked, the sharks were strung and hoisted off the back of the boats, onlookers straining on tiptoes in awe. Sharks were dragged to a rectangular slab where they were partly dissected by scientists, who harvested livers, reproductive organs, stomach contents and a slice of the backbone. They bring the tissues back to their respective labs on the mainland coast.

The porbeagle was the only one of its kind caught on Friday. “It’s typical to see them in the 300 to 400-pound range,” commented Gregory Skomal, a biologist specializing in sharks with the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

Tipping the scale at 429 pounds, porbeagle shark was top catch of day Friday. — Olivia Hull

Nearing 3 p.m., the hour the weigh station was opened for business, a scientist from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) lab in Narragansett, R.I, strapped a knife holster to her abdomen and secured the six-inch boning knife. It’s small, but kept continuously sharp by a whetstone she holds in the other hand while cutting into the sharks. Her other equipment included a portable black case for storing tissues, a sieve, measuring tape, rope, a scale and a rusted, dust-covered caliper.

The tournament does not award a prize for the winning shark; rather boats are ranked based on the points they acquire during the weekend. One pound is equivalent to one point.

Last year, the largest shark was a porbeagle weighing 447 pounds. The porbeagle caught Friday was a female, estimated to be about 20 years old, according to Lisa Natanson, a scientist who was on hand.

The shark was of reproductive age, a fact lamented by veterinary pathologist Joanna Borucinska of the University of Hartford. “It’s a shame when a female ready to reproduce is removed from the population,” she explained, while examining the shark’s ovaries, full of eggs.
The tournament runs through Saturday.