Show Two of the 2007 Quiznos Madfin Shark Series airs Sunday, April 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The six episodes air each Sunday through June. Check for show times and re-airs. Madfin TV schedule
Editor's note: See exclusive video to ESPNOutdoors.com at bottom of page.
Of the hundreds of shark species plying the oceans, only about eight interest the competitors in the Quiznos Madfin Shark Series tournament, and of those, some are far more tantalizing than others.
Landing a lemon or a blacktip is all in a day's work.
Nailing a Hammerhead would be an occasion to savor.
Taking a Tiger by the tail might catapult even a struggling team to the top.
Below you'll find a thumbnail description of the scored species. Teams will earn the stated points for catching each shark specimen, and double that total if they remove the hook from the beast's mouth before they release it.
The exception to this system is the Nurse shark, which is worth minus-50 points to catch, and must be released hook-free for a team to return to zero points. Sharks not listed here will score 50 points per catch and 50 per hook-free release.
The information in these profiles comes from interviews with guides and George Burgess, who directs the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, at the University of Florida. Further information comes from the biological profiles section of the web site of the Florida Museum of Natural History's Ichthyology Department a stellar resource on these and other shark species.
In order of their point values, the tournaments sharks include:
Nurse (-50 points to catch, 50 hook-removal bonus)
A bottom-feeder fond of lobster dinners, nurse sharks are generally docile creatures. Divers and snorkelers often approach them under water, usually to no consequence, unless they get too friendly or poke around under a ledge or in a cave, where as many as 40 nurses may pile together. Then the Nurse's abundance of tiny teeth can make it a dickens to scrape off. "I've seen guys go to the hospital with small sharks on them," guide Ken Harris says.
Nurses inhabit coastal waters around the middle Americas and the west coast of Africa, growing to about 9 feet in length and more than 200 pounds. Humans kill Nurse sharks to keep them off of bait meant for other species. Their meat, not prized, may be used for crab bait.
Blacktip (50 points to catch, 50 points hook-removal bonus)
Small and gamey, and speedy enough to run down jacks and snappers, blacktip sharks "jump like little Makos," says guide Ken Harris. Their rugged fins are like "sandpaper on the line," according to guide Robert Moore, and their teeth, Burgess says, are "designed for grabbing and eating fish rather than shearing and taking bites."
They're common in the tropics and subtropics around six continents, usually at depths not exceeding 100 feet. Adults grow to be about 5 feet long and 40 pounds. They feed on bony and schooling fishes such as sardines, mullet, anchovies, groupers and snook, attacking vertically at high speeds that sometimes carry them out of the water.
Lemon (50 points to catch, 50 points hook-removal bonus)
A shallow-water fish partial to estuaries and undercut limestone banks, lemon sharks "can be nasty-tempered," guide Ken Harris says. These inshore predators are known for being more aggressive than Blacktips, but both species are "spooky" of anglers, says guide Robert Moore.
These stocky, blunt-nosed sharks live mostly along the coasts of the Americas on a diet of stingrays, catfish, mullet, jacks, crabs, crayfish and smaller sharks, and often grow to be 10 or 12 feet long. Lemons are a relatively minor threat to people.
Sandbar (50 points to catch, 50 points hook-removal bonus)
The most common shark in commercial and recreational fishing, sandbars have been beaten down by about 80 percent in recent years. "It's going to take 60 years to take them to where they were 25 years ago," ichthyologist George Burgess says.
Their habitat ranges from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and coast of Korea and Hawaii. Blunt-snouted with a tall dorsal fin, the Sandbar reaches lengths of 6 or 7 feet and weights of 110 to 150 pounds. It bottom-feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, eels and octopi, and digs on bony fish as well.
Silky (50 points to catch, 50 points hook-removal bonus)
"A tweener shark," ichthyologist George Burgess says, found in shallower water than the Mako but comfortable in depths up to 50 fathoms, if they're large enough, silkies have earned the appellation "net-eater" for going after tuna nets in the eastern Pacific.
It's an active shark that prefers warmer waters around the Americas, Australia and Africa. The long pectoral fin and rear tip distinguish the silky, which grows to about 10 feet in length and have notched, serrated teeth.
Bull (100 points to catch, 100 points hook-removal bonus)
Bulls inhabit on coastal waters throughout tropical and subtropical regions, but have been found thousands of miles up the Amazon and as far up the Mississippi River as Illinois.
Its eyes are small, its pectoral fins, large. Bulls get to be about 11 feet long and 500 pounds on a diet of just about anything the ocean contains: tarpon, jacks, dolphins, crabs, squid, sea birds, other Bulls. It's not a popular commercial fish, but is a popular game fish in the American southeast and in South Africa.
"It has the most testosterone of any animal on the planet," guide Ken Harris says. "A male bull shark is in my opinion the animal that's most likely to bite you that lives anywhere. He also goes further into fresh water than the others. They're a nasty animal."
Once, a Bull shark that was attacking his boat turned and took out its frustrations by biting a 9-foot nurse on the back. The Bull's presence in shallow and fresh water, along with its temperament, makes it among the most dangerous sharks to humans.
"You don't see as many bulls landed," guide Robert Moore says. "This last tournament, we hooked four in the 9- to 10-foot range. We couldn't stop them. They broke us off all four times."
Hammerhead (300 points to catch, 300 points hook-removal bonus)
"Every Hammerhead is different from the last," says guide Ken Harris, describing them as "squirrelly," "aggressive" or "disinterested."
But they're just about everything you'd want to see in a gamefish. The remarkable shape of their heads endows them with "a different view of the world," ichthyologist George Burgess says. It pushes their nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini (the organs that detect other animals' faint electrical fields) further apart, for one, enhancing the Hammerhead's ability to triangulate and find prey.
They also have greater maneuverability, and will use their heads to bash prey. Burgess talks of Hammerheads pinning stingrays to the ocean floor with that head and finishing the ray bite by bite.
Tiger (300 points to catch, 300 points hook-removal bonus)
"Tiger sharks don't leave until they eat what they came for," guide Ken Harris says. "They are the Mike Tyson of the sharks. The Tiger shark, I'm convinced, is the shark that all other sharks' reputation is based on. He will eat a boot. He will not change his speed and will not change his demeanor, and he will eat you."
Researchers commonly find human garbage in the guts of Tigers, and the Tiger is responsible for nearly as many attacks on people as the great white.
Similar to the bull shark, Tigers have highly serrated teeth best suited for shearing, excellent for pursuing large fish, other sharks and stingrays, or for crunching through the shells of sea turtles. Tigers are found widely along the world's temperate and tropical coasts. Its characteristic dark spots become less distinct as the shark matures.
Mako (1,000 points to catch, 1,000 points hook-removal bonus)
Far-flung in the world's oceans, the Mako can be found as far north as Scandinavia and nearly as far south as Patagonia. It is a solitary shark, hydrodynamic, strong, aggressive.
Whereas the bull and Tiger sharks tend to shear prey's flesh with their teeth, the Mako is "more of a grabber," says ichthyologist George Burgess.
The Mako is the fastest shark, capable of speeds approaching 20 mph, and known for jumping above the surface, helping to make it a highly sought game fish.
Adults are usually around 10 feet long and weigh 135 to 300 pounds, though Ernest Hemingway himself caught a Mako weighing 786 pounds with a rod and reel. Its fins and liver oil are prized commercial products.
Aside from the fish's inherent attractiveness to anglers, the pelagic Mako is so prized in this competition because it tends to inhabit "blue water" rather than the flats so accessible around the lower Keys.
"We see them," guide Ken Harris says, "but the problem is we don't see enough to warrant going to catch one."