Branford Fisherman Helps Bag 422-Pound Shark

The big reel in earned the Master Bait & Tackle-based fishing team the top prize at the 26th annual Shark Tournament at Star Island Yacht Club on Montauk Point in Long Island.

You've heard all the stories about the one that got away. Well, this isn't one of them.

A group of East Haven-based fishermen at the 26th annual Shark Tournament at with their catch of a 422-pound thresher shark.

More than 150 boats took part in the Montauk, Long Island tournament, which was held on June 15 and 16. A total of 47 sharks were brought in — but none as big as the team from .

Tournament Win

The local fishermen —  who were aboard the "Bluefin," a sportfishing charter from Clinton — angled a 422-pound Thresher shark to win the $30,000 prize.

The shark also brought in an additional $5,000 for the heaviest shark on the first day and $3,500 for being the heaviest shark in the "other" category. 

The heaviest shark squashed last year's big catch — . There were no Threshers or Blue sharks that reached the minimum weight for weigh-in during tlast year's touranment.

Team Master Bait & Tackle

The members of the winning team are:

  • Bob Bishop, owner of East Haven
  • Dave Corola, owner of New Haven
  • Tom Rispoli II, of East Haven
  • Tom Rispoli III, of East Haven
  • Sal Vollero,  of North Haven
  • John Willard, of Branford

The group is sponsored by Old New England Tackle and Black Attack Blackfish jigs.

The Bluefin

Team member John Willard told East Haven Patch the group has participated in the Montauk Point tournament for the last three years aboard the Bluefin.


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"The first year we had hooked a shark bigger than this one probably, and we lost him," Willard said. "That was a bad experience."

"And last year, we didn't have anything to weigh in," he said.

But this year was different — and it didn't take the men long to snag their big catch.

The Big Catch

On the first day of the tournament, the team was fishing about 30 miles off the coast of Montauk Point when they started having some positive signs.

"We had a couple of small sharks in the early morning," Willard said, but they were too small to be entered into the competition.

So they continued to fish.

And then, at about 9:30 a.m. in the morning: Thresher shark success.

On the Hook

The effort was led by East Haven's Tom Rispoli III, who manned the reel for the team.

"In fishing tournaments like this, they only allow one person to be the angler, the person who actually does the rod or reel," Willard explained.

He quickly added, however, that Rispoli's catch was anything but a one-man effort. Every member of the team had their part to play to ensure a successful catch of such a big shark.

Two-Hour Battle

And it was quite an effort.

"It was an hour and 45 minute battle," Willard said.

Once the fish was reeled in out of the water, however, the battle continued.

Bluefin Captain Mike Marro — along with his mates Joe Luchini and Blake Conlon, both from Branford — had to use their expert skills to secure the catch after the nearly two hour battle.

Willard said thresher sharks have powerful tails they use to "whack their prey to stun it and then it eat."

And so you need a solid mix of focus and skill once the giant fish is up on the boat.

"Without them, that doesn't happen," Willard said of the Bluefin captain and crew. "Anybody can get a big heavy rod and reel, and throw dead fish on it and hook the shark. But once you get it to the boat, that's where the expertise comes in."

'A Big Shark'

Willard said it was an exciting and satisfying tournament for the group, especially after losing that shark three years ago.

The team — which is made up of Master Bait & Tackle shop owners, family and friends — frequently participates in fishing tournaments. And will continue to compete in the future.

But they'll all always have their Thresher success story to share with others, and add to the local fishermen's lore.

"It was a big shark," Willard said.

Diane Peck June 27, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I find this disgusting and very sad. All those beautiful sharks caught and killed for a sport, we are at a time in this world where sharks, the oceans top predator and most important fish in the sea are dissapearing at an alarming rate. Totally disgusting! Everyone who took part in this should be hung up just like the dead shark!
Anthony Paecht June 27, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Great eating!
Molly June 28, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Awesome job guys!


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