Reeling in the big one: Derry couple wins shark tournament
DERRY — Fishing from the appropriately named “Bite This,” Patrick Rivard and his girlfriend, Jenny Siekmann, last week captured first prize in a Rhode Island shark fishing tournament.
The Derry residents, who are both attorneys in the same Manchester law firm, were part of a crew from New Hampshire that competed in the 2014 Block Island Sharkfest. The crew landed a 203-pound mako shark to win first place in the mako division and take home $7,000 in prize money, Rivard said.
It was the first time they had competed in a shark tournament, said Rivard, who had about seven years of prior shark fishing experience before entering the competition.
“For our first tournament, it was pretty incredible,” Rivard said.
He co-owns the boat with Siekmann.
Rivard wanted to give the tournament a try after watching the television show “Shark Hunters.” During a recent episode, Rivard said he studied the TV anglers’ technique and knew he could do better at reeling in the toothy fish.
“I’m much better than those guys,” he remarked while watching the show.
In putting the crew together, Rivard said he knew Siekmann also had some shark fishing experience and loves boating.
Siekmann was selected to pilot the 28-foot boat and serve as videographer, while Rivard manned the harpoon. Also selected for the trip were Ryan Letourneau and John Richardson. They are also from New Hampshire.
While basking in the glow of their victory, Rivard and Siekmann realized how fortunate they were to have even made it to the tournament.
“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Siekmann said.
On the day they left for the tournament last week, there were problems with the boat trailer that delayed the trip, she said. And, Siekmann somehow ended up on the wrong ferry to a captains’ meeting, causing her to arrive even later to the session.
Before leaving for Rhode Island, they spent hours preparing and packing all of the high-tech gear necessary to catch big sharks, Rivard said.
“We use huge reels,” he said. “Everything has to be perfect; it has to be oiled and the drag has to be set perfectly.”
But on the morning of the tournament, Rivard said he realized he had forgotten to bring the frozen mackerel to use for bait.
“We get down there and I got 30 gallons of chum and gallons of fish oil and all of this stuff,” he said. “I get down there, and I forgot the bait.”
So after the 5 a.m. start when all of the other boats left for deep water, they remained on shore waiting for the bait shop to open at 8 a.m. They were eventually able to buy bait and headed out at 8:30 a.m. They traveled for about three hours and reached the Continental Shelf, about 85 miles from Block Island, Rivard said.
They fished for about an hour before hooking the big mako, which was close to seven feet long. The sharks are prized among anglers because of their fighting and jumping ability, Rivard said.
After the shark was brought up to the boat, it was gaffed, harpooned and secured immediately outside of the boat, Siekmann said.
For the next two hours, the shark thrashed so violently that it eventually broke the gaff and snapped the line on the rod. All that kept it captive was the harpoon Rivard had used, she said.
“We were lucky we didn’t lose him, quite frankly,” Siekmann said.
It took Rivard, Letourneau and Richardson to hoist the shark into the boat. As they were bringing it in, the shark turned and looked at the trio, she said, adding that one of the men jokingly said “that’s it.”
They continued fishing through the night, but didn’t catch any sharks as big as the mako, Siekmann said. They returned the next day, knowing they were likely to win something with the big shark.
“Anything over 200 pounds has a good chance of getting into the money,” Rivard said.