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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 10:51 pm | Fair 47º


Captain’s Log: Mako My Day

An angler plays 'catch' with an adult shark during a fishing expedition

One of the guys sitting on the gunwale jumped up, hollered and pointed down into the water. We all looked over the side to watch the ominous shape of a large phantom glide gracefully under the boat. I saw just enough of it to recognize it as an adult mako shark.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

The sight gave us chills and goosebumps. We had been drifting casually, several miles off the Channel Islands, with a slow current and light breeze, metering out chum, while soaking live mackerels and chunks of meat.

We didn’t wait long. One of our heavy reels, a Penn 16VSX 2-speed spooled with 60-pound mono line and finished with a coated steel leader double-sleeved to a 6/0 VMS hook, and mounted on a Fenwick rod, zipped loudly but briefly. One guy picked it up out of the rod holder and looked to me for advice. I motioned for him to wait.

The rod tip bounced slowly a couple of times as the shark got a better bite on the bait, and then the reel screamed as the phantom raced off. “Now!” I bellowed from the bridge. The angler slid the drag lever forward, started reeling and set the hook hard enough to drive it through tough leather. There is nothing gentle about setting the hook on a large shark.

I always drift with the reel out of gear and the clicker on to prevent a backlash that occasionally occurs when a shark or other big-game fish hits hard on the run. It seems that the raucous clicker sound is tied directly to our adrenaline glands, sending us into action the moment the clicker screams. To set the hook and fight the shark, we slide the drag lever to our preset drag setting and then adjust it after the hookup. We switch off the clicker when it becomes a nuisance.

We had a pretty big shark hooked up. I helped the angler make the shark work hard by coaching him to lift the stout rod and make the shark bend it. We watched in awe as the shark launched itself high into the air, then made a couple of prolonged runs, taking more than half of the line off the spool.

After 45 minutes, the battle still was not decided. The shark came near the boat twice, but it wasn’t quite close enough to touch the leader. After a third pass, the shark made several rapid rolls and wrapped the leader around a fin. The mono line was against the shark’s rough skin back by the thrashing tail and the line parted before the brute could be brought to the leader.

It was a heartbreaker, but when dealing with large prime predators, it just doesn’t always go smoothly. We were going to release that big shark anyway, but we could not honorably pronounce it “caught” because we hadn’t quite brought it to the leader.

And there you have the reason there is no photo to accompany this story.

— 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.

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