Offer a $20,000 prize for a new state record tiger shark, and you can expect fishermen to target the toothy critters.
The 2016 Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo did exactly that, and the anglers responded … and did so reasonably. The reward was claimed, but not at the expense of many dead sharks.
David Rogers of Theodore, Ala., took the $20K with a 390-pound tiger Saturday on Day 2 of the four-day Independence Day holiday event. It was weighed in by Rodeo director Dwayne Armes, who ironically had set the previous state tiger record of 173 pounds in 2010.
“That tiger shark today was a good one,” Armes told the Sun Herald newspaper. “You don’t see that many big ones. And I got to weigh the fish that breaks mine.”
Rogers also set a new record for bull shark with a 203-pound bull shark that he weighed in at the same time as the tiger. The bull shark bettered the previous record of 186 pounds, 2 ounces, set the day before by Ricky Mathews of New Orleans.
Rightfully so, the tiger shark stole the show. It took Rogers and crew just over an hour to tire it out and finish the catch. The fish hit a 3-pound bonito.
Rodeo weighmaster Mark Wright deflected a lot of negative comments about the killing of sharks, and for the $20,000 “bounty” being offered.
“Shark fishermen are knowledgeable, and nobody is more interested in the conservation of these fish than they are,” Wright said. “We didn’t have that many sharks entered, and only two tigers. They know better than to kill an immature tiger.”
Rogers defended his catch, too, and said that he actually quit shark fishing for a few years when he saw the numbers dwindle.
“The shark population is unbelievable,” Rogers told The Clarion-Ledger. “I’ve been diving since 1994. I didn’t see many sharks in the late 90s and took a seven-year break.
“About 2009 I started diving again and we see sharks nearly every dive,” he said. “It’s rare we dive at a reef and don’t see one. The population is very healthy. Tiger Sharks? There’s plenty of them out there. I’m all for conservation. I probably care more about them than most people.”