Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 4:22 am | Overcast 57º


Captain’s Log: Thresher Shark Puts Up a Good Fight

A cold winter morning suddenly heats up with a 200-pound beast on the line

We were bundled up and blowing hot air into our cupped hands, trying to warm up. It was 7 on a frigid winter morning, and I was giving my passengers the safety equipment orientation before casting off and heading to sea.

Suddenly my friend, Mike, looked off across the parking lot and began to laugh softly. We all turned to stare in awe at the teenage competition swimmers standing around the outdoor Los Baños del Mar Pool in their swimming suits. Well, that certainly put us in our places, and we quit acting like whussies!

Mike had called me to make a special arrangement. He is a general contractor I’ve known for years. He had visitors in town — an old friend and his wife from Michigan. The friend, Vince, is a butcher and brought along some of his private reserve beef jerky. Yummy! Mike asked if I had some work that needed done on my house for a work exchange. Hey, I’m up for that! So we steamed out of port that cold morning in search of big game with big teeth.

After buying a couple of scoops of live bait from the bait receiver near the harbor entrance, we jigged up a few lively mackerel. Sharks love those macks. Then we cranked up my big outboards and dang near flew down coast to drift inside the area we call the Armpit. (Lovely name, eh?) I had seen some thresher sharks in the area during the past week and figured we had a good chance.

A couple of hours later, my passengers seemed to be losing confidence. Being a charter captain, I know how much patience can be required. I kept chumming and kept a live mackerel working on a heavy rig with a 60-pound mono line. We waited.

I spotted it first — the phantom shape of a shark gliding under the boat. I tried baiting it with mackerel, anchovies and sardines. The shark was interested but wouldn’t commit (male shark, naturally). Finally, in exasperation, I grabbed the bag of jerky and put some private reserve on the hook. Ten seconds later, we all watched the shark swim up and inhale the bait. Did the shark find the jerky irresistible, or was it just time for it to bite? I asked that shark, but he wouldn’t say.

It was a big thresher, better than 200 pounds. I spun down the drag to the right setting and swung hard enough to lift most critters right out of the water. The shark didn’t budge. I handed the rod to the butcher, grinned at him and said, “Hold on. Things are about to get interesting!”

On queue, the thresher bolted about 75 yards while the reel’s drag screamed in protest. Vince stood in wide-eyed astonishment, and I held the back of his shirt collar to keep him aboard. Then the shark went airborne repeatedly, putting on a truly magnificent show.

Each of us took turns pulling on that powerful beast, and the fight lasted the better part of an hour. With the shark alongside and all worn out, it was almost time to bring it aboard — but not quite. I cinched a loop over the shark’s tail and towed it backward awhile to weaken it. Then I partially bled the critter in the water. Finally I decided to bring it aboard.

I sent Vince and his wife up on the bridge. Mike and I opened the transom door and hauled that heavy load into the cockpit. That’s when the shark woke up, remembering how mad he was and went ballistic!

I dived onto the head, and Mike jumped on that long, thrashing tail. That shark was picking us both up and slamming us on the deck repeatedly, while we roared, hooted and hollered. I had the shark’s head pinned down pretty good, so I asked the butcher to come down and cut it off to slow the critter down.

Now, I’m sure the man is a great butcher back at home in his shop, but he was a mite excited at this point, and his cutting moves weren’t exactly smooth and precise. The blade jumped out of the shark and impaled my index finger (right hand) into the bone. I pulled the knife out, wrapped a rag around my bloody finger and finished the job myself. So in the end, the shark didn’t hurt me, but I was injured by a much more dangerous critter — man!

Once we got back to dock, the guys took off to buy big coolers. We cut the delicious shark into pieces to fit each cooler. The last I saw of it was a line of three full coolers with a head laying at one end and the tail at the other. It was quite a sight.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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