After buying a couple of scoops of live bait from the bait receiver near the harbor entrance, we jigged up a few lively mackerel just past the end of Stearns Wharf. Sharks love those tasty macks, and we were shark hunting today.
With plenty of live bait in the bait tank, we cranked up my big outboards and launched the fast charter boat down-coast to drift inside the area we call the Armpit (lovely name, eh?). I had seen some thresher sharks in the area recently and figured we had a good chance.
The group wanted a thresher shark to feed a large party that night. Have you checked the prices on thresher shark at the store, recently? It’s an eye-opener. Plus, there is something powerful about the experience of going into nature and securing dinner.
A couple of hours later, my passengers seemed to be losing confidence. Being a charter captain, I know how much patience plays a part when hunting big game of almost any kind. I gave them words of encouragement while I kept chumming anchovies and soaking a live mackerel on a heavy rig with 65-pound braided line, steel leader and a very large hook. We waited.
I spotted it first — the phantom shape of a shark gliding under the boat. Moving fast, I tried baiting it with mackerel, then anchovies and sardines. That shark definitely seemed interested but wouldn’t commit (male shark, naturally).
Finally in exasperation, I grabbed the bag of jerky I was munching on and put some private reserve on the hook. Ten seconds later, we all watched the shark swim up and inhale the jerky bait. Did the shark find the jerky irresistible, or was it just time for it to bite? I asked that shark repeatedly, but he wouldn’t answer.
This 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 charter master, grinned at him and said, “Hold on, things are about to get interesting!”
On queue, the thresher bolted — like a freaked out bullet train — about 75 yards while the reel’s drag screamed in protest, the angler stood in wide-eyed astonishment, hanging on for dear life while I held the back of his belt loop to keep him aboard. Then the shark went airborn repeatedly, jumping and splashing, putting on a truly magnificent show of anger and frustration.
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 time to bring it aboard. That part is the most dangerous moment of all, and before it was over, Capt. Tiffany (my crew member) and I were on top of the shark, trying to keep everyone — plus the boat — safe.
I heard later that it was a magnificent feast for the large group. I wouldn’t have minded a piece of that delicious shark myself!
— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.