CHANNEL ISLANDS HARBOR : Jaws Yield Big Bucks in Shark Contest

Deep-sea fisherman Van Millan felt his stomach knotting up Sunday as the mako shark on his line jumped out of the water.

The mako--estimated at 300 to 400 pounds by nearby anglers--would have dwarfed the top catch of the fifth annual Big Bucks Shark Tournament at Channel Islands Harbor had it not broken free after a 10-minute fight.

"I was shaking and my heart was in my stomach," said Millan, 33, a probation officer from Ventura. Only after the disappointment from losing a "once-in-a-lifetime" fish ebbed, Millan said, did he realize that with it went $10,000 for the top catch of tournament and an additional $5,000 for catch of the day.

A total of 62 boats carrying more than 225 anglers competed in the three-day contest, which ranks as one of the two largest shark-fishing tournaments in Southern California. The other is held at Dana Point.

La Canada Flintridge contractor Doug Muelder took the $10,000 best-of-tournament prize for a 162-pound mako caught Friday. In addition, Muelder won more than $30,000 in pools and side bets for landing the largest sharks two of the three days.

Like Millan, Richard Christensen, a 58-year-old dental ceramics technician from Oxnard, also had a disappointing fish story. On Sunday, Christensen landed a 74-pound mako that was one pound shy of taking the $1,000 seventh-place prize.

All was not lost, however, Christensen said. "I'll cut it up, eat it and pass steaks out to all my friends."

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