My son Tyler has been wanting to catch a shark since he was about 7 or 8 years old. Tried in 2007 when he was 11 but missed the hook ups. Fellow TFer Blue Lou and I had planned an overnight trip Sunday but bad weather scrubbed that trip. Saw a short weather window for Wedsnesday but it would be a tight one. Winds overnight would be over 15 - then about 5 am - drop out - only to pick back up Weds. evening. Rest of the week looked bad - plus a shark tournament over the weekend would mean a lot of pressure.
The alarm went off at 1:00 am and I woke Tyler up. We got the boat hooked up and Lou showed up right at 1:35. Had ice/chum but needed to get mackerel for bait once in OC. The drive down was easy - no traffic. The new $12.00 toll at the bridge stung though. We all looked at every flag - all standing out with 15 knot winds on the 130 mile ride and even had some rain to deal with until we got to Salisbury. The flag at the ramp was still showing about 15 but it was turning to the west. Got launched and went to AKE for our bait. Tied up at 4:55 am - perfect timing since they open at 5:00 or so I thought. The sign on the door showed their hours - not open until 7am on M-Thurs . Walked back to the truck and drove up to the new All Tackle shop - they open at 6:00am. Sucked losing an hour of fishing but the wind was still blowing hard. Sun came up and I watched the flag as it showed a steady drop in the wind. Right at 5:50 - the All Tackle guy showed up and opened the store. Got a flat of nice mackerel for bait and went back to the boat. Off we went and saw the inlet was almost flat. Got through and pointed her SSE about 145*. It was a tough ride - the swells and waves were really confused and it was going to be a long 30 miles to the intended spot. Rethought the game plan and fell back to plan B - the Ham Bone area of the Fingers. The 20 degree course change made for a much better ride and it only took an hour before we were ready to fish. The ocean still had a weird confused feel to it - the current/wind and waves all seemed to be opposite each other. Put out the chum crate along the last finger just befor the Ham Bone. Radar showed two other boats there already. The GPS showed a very, very slow drift but the chum was flowing out nicely. With the current against the wind - we knew it would be a slow drift all day. Put out a deep line at 65 feet down with weight , an unweighted rig 30 feet down - both under floats. A third bait was fished short- in sight - just 20 feet out by the chum bucket. With everything set - we sat back to wait. First hit took the 30 foot unweighted line. Lou reeled the other rods in as the fish ran with the bait. Tyler got in the chair and I set the hook. Felt like a decent fish and Tyler clipped into the reel. We got out the gaffs - just in case it was a Mako. The fight looked to be a Blue shark but sometimes a Mako or even Thesher will sand bag the fight and surprise you at the boat. We were ready - just in case. The fish pulled some line and put a nice bend in the 50lb outfit.
Tyler was having a ball as Lou and I watched to see what he had. Lou had to turn the boat slightly with the motor as the shark ran forward but the slow fight had us thinking Blue shark. Soon we saw it and the long shape confirmed it. Tyler finally got the fish close and Lou grabbed the leader. A few pictures and the estimated 80-90 pounder was released.
We put the lines back over and high fived Tyler for his first shark. The wind was dieing out - just as predicted and our drift slowed to a crawl. We only moved 1/2 mile in two hours - not good when shark fishing. We slide off the edge into a featureless flat bottom so decided to slowly troll to a hump about 2 miles away. Rerigged the baits so they would swim. Trolling at 1.5 knots sure beat sitting still and Makos would have no trouble catching them. We trolled for about 30 minutes and the far out rod got hit but the fish bite the bait clean off - just behind the head. We saw the fin of what looked to be a small pup Mako. No other strikes as we got to the area we wanted to drift. With little wind - the current carried us at about .7 mph. Still not the best but at least were were moving. The close to the bucket bait got hit by a fish that bit the mackerel in half. Hoping for a live Bluefish for bait - Lou put over a lighter rod with a small chunk. He drifted it back and got a hit but it was a small Blue shark - maybe 40 pounds or so. Not wanting to earn the name Blue Shark Lou - he let Tyler try to land it. The fish was reeled close to the boat but then took off on a long run. As the line angle changed - Lou and I waited for the shark's tail to hit the fishing line and cut it. Only a short 12 inch leader was on this outfit. Sure enough - the line got cut. Short time later the unweighted 30 foot line got hit again and soon Tyler was in the chair with another fish.
The slow steady pull told us it was another Blue shark but Tyler still had his hands full with this one. It fought well for it's size but slowly came to the boat. I wired this one in - and Lou pointed out it was trailing another leader. Our other rods were in the holders - their leaders coiled safely - so it was someone else's rig. Saw it to be a huge circle hook with all mono leader - perhaps a swordfish longline rig. We were able to pull the hook out - only because the seas were flat. First try the shark rolled and bit the chum crate fender - destroying it. Second try went better and the hook was pulled free.
It was about 2:00 but so far the winds were still under 5 knots. Prediction was for 15-20 by 6pm but we elected to put out another gallon of chum. The guys let me take a hour nap and I woke up to hear a huge splash off the starboard bow and then the WLUFF of a whale spouting. We all watched the 30 footer cruise by- maybe 1/4 mile away. I tried a photo but I'm too slow to get the whale on the surface. Awesome creature to see swim by. The wind picked up a touch and we started to drift better. We replaced the baits - they were still good but it never hurts to put out new mackerel. The lack of Bluefish had us worried - rare to chum all day and not attract them. Our chum line grew and soon it covered a good 2 miles of ocean. The breeze changed to a wind but we just knew a Mako was out there. Put in the final gallon of chum and hoped it would draw one in. Saw a ocean Sunfish swim into the slick and at first we thought it was a small Thresher. These fish are cool to see - they look bitten in half. The weatherman had this day pegged - the wind turned due south and a few whitecaps were forming. Our chum slick was getting thin so we mashed up the last mackerel and put them over. Many a Mako has fallen to our boat in the final minutes of a trip. Today it was not to be and we called it quits just after 5:00 pm. The GPS showed 28 NM to the inlet but at least it would be in the trough- an easy ride back. Ran in at 25 knots and managed to keep the windshield dry - well almost. The dark clouds we had been watching from offshore dropped some raindrops on us. Tyler raised the upside down shark flag to signify the release. Got to the ramp as lightning flickered in the west. Got the boat loaded just as the rain came down. Had to put on raingear to put the antennas down - we sure fished right to the last minute. The guys slept most of the way home. It was a tough trailer back - almost the entire way was rain - heavy at times. The boat got a very good wash down though - not a lick of salt was on her this morning.
Although we did not get a Mako - we still had fun and Tyler has a shark to his credit. He took the pictures to school today - and we are already planning an overnight trip for next week - weather permitting.