One look into the gaping maw of a great white shark puts everything in life into sudden perspective. It happened on a fishing trip to the Channel Islands.
We were fishing at San Miguel Island on a rare calm, comfortable day and the fishing was easy. We used light tackle that made it a challenge to fight 5- to 8-pound reds, chunky chucklehead and raging “lingasaur” (lingcod). A little blood was trickling from the scuppers of my charter boat, and it was apparently enough — along with the wriggling fish in the water — to attract a young great white shark.
A passenger was bringing up a very large vermilion rockfish (red snapper). He hollered “color,” which meant it was near the surface.
I was there with a gaff. We both leaned over the gunn’l to see the fish and time our actions. We could see the fish all right, right at the surface, but we were also looking into the gaping maw of a white shark coming up from below to take that big rockfish, which seemed to shrink in size compared with the mouth of that toothy shark.
I’ll never forget the image of those razor teeth ominously ringing that mouth, opened to the max and ready for a bite. Instinctively, my passenger stepped back from the rail while I swung the gaff and lifted the fish out of the path of that shark. The great white, which I’d estimate to be 9 feet long, closed its mouth on nothing and silently slunk away.
At that moment, I was really glad that movies like Jaws dramatically overstate any tendency a shark has to hold a grudge. I didn’t want that shark to be mad at me!
By the way, do you know what we call a great white shark out on the water? We call it “The Landlord.” On the day of our sighting, it was trying to collect rent.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.