On The Hook: Shark Tales


On countless occasions, a charter inquiry will include a question that goes something like “ you guys ever catch any sharks down there”? Then, with even a glint that we do, the whole focus of the potential trip goes there. Folks are mesmerized by sharks.

Know it sounds trite, but I think the craze for sharks was fostered by the wildly popular “Jaws” motion picture trilogy on those aforementioned inquiry calls we even get asked if the sharks are

“Great Whites!”

But, really, who can forget the terror created by that series. You can still see Chief Brody frantically trying to get the kids out of the water as Jaws runs the beach after them. Then the epic ending when Quint tries to finish his nemesis off before he sinks the boat.

“Jaws” is rated as one of the scariest movies ever made and the unforgettable music signaling the sharks approach is the most recognizable musical sound bites of all time. It’s no wonder that sharks take front and center.

And I think everyone assumes their shark fishing experience will be just like the movie sans the dangerous parts. But shark fishing is not like that at all. It can be boring in the quest and dangerous in the catch.

Admittedly, I must confess that I, too, was not exempt from the craze and so to the story.

When we first arrived here, we too were awed by this idyllic place. Having all this water right in the backyard was almost too much to comprehend. My wife and I did goofy things just to be out there on the briny. We’d take the dog to Keewadin Island and try to do a cookout with gathered wood on the beach. We’d take the boat up into the middle of Addison Bay, anchor and each lunch; never mind the mosquitoes.

Then, one bright beautiful late summer day, I suggested we go fishing for sharks. My better half was not into the fishing stuff but, it was time on the water and a chance to finish a book.

We stocked the boat with some mega baits that I had sequestered in the garage frig, a couple blocks of chum and the biggest hooks that I had ever used. We set sail mid morning and headed south along the beaches. First Marco’s beach, then sliding due south along Kice Island, past the geodesic structures on Cape Romano and on out to an area called the Humps; marked by an undulating bottom structure just off the Romano flats that had a reputation, for some unknown reason, for attracting sharks.

We set up on wide open water. Not a soul around. Nothing on the fishfinder. All alone but we’d try; this is the spot that they all talked about at the marina. We’d see !

The chum was in the water and into a good tide creating a noticeable surface sheen as the slick moved southeast on the moving water. The baits were now thawed slabs of a bonito we had landed some months back impaled on hooks the size of towing gear. Two rigs with 100# test line; wire leaders the size of clothes line were on rods as thick as broom sticks.

We were ready. Game on !

But no one told the sharks. This was the boring part mentioned. Time seems to stand still as you wait for the reel to click or maybe even scream with a strike. But it was a beautiful afternoon with puffy cumulus clouds dotting the horizon; not a dark cloud in sight. Adjust the drag setting; bounce the chum bag; sit down and then do it again.

We’re into an hour and a half and still nothing. The book is finished and the “How much longer?” inquiries add to the anxiety. It’s now getting late and we’re an hour from home. We agree on “soon.”

The second block of chum is almost gone and I reach for one of the rods to call it quits and the other rod sounds off, click, click, click and then a scream. Fish on !

Picking up the screaming rod, I throw the two position drag knob into “strike” and am almost exited from the boat. The rod doubles but holds as the drag, already set to max, cannot stop the run but slows it significantly.

We must have had over a hundred yards of line out as we start the retrieve. It’s sheer labor ... take in five or six yards ... lose two. The hands are cramping as well as the arm muscles but we are gaining on our yet unknown assailant.

Finally, we have our catch close enough to know we have a shark; a big shark and just as we go “Holy Cow” the shark breaches alongside the boat going at least eight feet skyward and crashing back into the water. It’s at least an eight foot thresher shark that’s very annoyed at us.

All I can think of is release; all my wife can think of is hide and all that shark is thinking is destroy. He circles the boat still red hot and makes a run right underneath tangling the leader in the outboard lower unit; now he is actually rocking the boat.

No time to be a hero, so I grab the leading edge of the leader and reach for my wire shears just as sharkie decides to sound. I cut the leader just after it slices through my gloves and rips a finger.

The shark untangles himself from the lower unit (lucky me) and is gone. We put pressure on the finger and head home and thence to Urgent Care.

Once again, let me iterate ... shark fishing is sometimes dangerous.

Still have no feeling in that sutured little finger and my wife never went fishing with me again.

Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to dawnpatrolcharters@compuserve.com.

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