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Anglers: Shark ate our $100,000-winning kingfish

Shark bite costs 3 anglers top prize in Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A shark bite literally cost three anglers nearly $100,000.

They were competing in the Greater Jacksonville King Fish Tournament last week when a bull shark munched on what would have been their winning catch.

Andrew Virtuoso said things got a bit fishy during Day 2 of the King Fish Tournament on Friday as he was sailing on the Time Served boat, along with captain Phil Kelly and deckman Jerry Moulton, about 50 miles off the coast.

"(We) had two really big bites. Both got cut off," Virtuoso recounted to News4Jax on Monday. "We couldn't figure out what it was."

Turns out, a bull shark was also doing a bit of fishing. The shark latched onto their third catch -- a large kingfish.

"It kept shooting at the boat and came to the surface," Virtuoso said. "The captain was on the gaff. I was on the rod."

When they pulled the fish out, a huge chunk was missing.

"There was a lot of profanity. We were pretty upset," Virtuoso said. "We fought so hard for that fish. (But) the shark won."

The large half-eaten kingfish was ineligible to enter in the competition. But the crew weighed it anyway.

"That fish, with a third taken out of it, weighed 40 pounds still," Virtuoso said.

The winning fish was 46.5 pounds. 

The anglers knew their fish, had it been whole, would have beaten that weight.

"It was just brutal after that. It was pretty much a huge slap in the face after that happened," Virtuoso said, chuckling. "It's something you can laugh about now, while holding back tears at the same time."

Philip Kelly and Andrew Virtuoso pose with the would-have-been winning kingfish. (Photo courtesy: Andrew Virtuoso)

The shark bite cost the anglers the nearly $100,000 first-place prize package. They planned to use the money to make upgrades to their boat.

"It was pure nature that caused it," Virtuoso said. "There was really nothing you can do."

Despite the shark's interference, the crew plans to enter the tournament again next year.

"This won't hold us back," Virtuoso said. 

He added that Kelly and Moulton took home the top prize in 2016 and would have been the first team to win the tournament twice.

Virtuoso hopes they'll have the bigger bite next year.