Is it me, or do we seem to get less chances to run offshore due to the inclement weather? What has happened to our idyllic summers? Long days spent in a gently rocking boat waiting for a shark line to scream out? Global warming has no doubt changed something, and with the internet Atlantic pressure charts imprinted on my mind, I loaded up the old Estate and pointed her in the direction of the setting sun. Like most small boat enthusiasts I like to keep a constant eye on the British weather systems, checking when there is a slot coming up that will at least give a couple of days out on the sparkling briny. My travels around the world has seen me learn a fair bit about impending weather systems. From cyclones and hurricanes, to tornadoes and water spouts. In fact I still have this insatiable desire to drive a small boat close to a water spout just to get a good picture. Only recently while I was trapped in Bud n’ Mary’s Marina during a hurricane, I learned from skipper Alex Adler that the anti-cyclone spin of an Atlantic Hurricane, gives the strongest wind and storms on the north-east corner of the circular rotation. As the Florida Keys is in the northern hemisphere I reasoned that our own low pressure systems coming in off the Atlantic would have a similar “front” i.e. the roughest stuff coming in before the actual low itself. So I would watch the speed of the Atlantic pressure systems on their 5-day internet cycle, and try to get out in a boat on an upcoming high, then fish until the first of the low front started to arrive. These conditions were already in place as I drove down. The high was on its way, the wind should be1/ 2 south-westerly, and the boat “Amarilla” owned by Brian Gardner. In all the years he had fished the Lizard area, he had taken only one small blue shark with me. The weather had always prevented us getting far enough from his base at St.Anthony to get a shark. Now conditions were in our favour, and with two huge sacks of rainbow trout guts donated by Britain’s top trout fishery, Avington in Hampshire, there would be no chance of any cruising shark NOT getting our scented message. My only concern was that over the last decade the blue sharks seemed to have been in almost terminal decline. Numbers down everywhere, so would we be wasting a day that would also have been ideal for anchoring on the Manacles reef for Conger?
The following day dawned bright and clear, with the “Amarilla” swinging expectantly on her mooring in the picture postcard St.Anthony Bay. With tackle loaded we chugged out past The Nare, and stopped to feather a few fresh mackerel for hookbait on a mark we call the Quarry. The benefit of using dead trout for chum is that we gain at least an hour or more of drifting time, as we already had the carcasses slabbed up and roped, ready to lower over the side. The deep water in Falmouth Bay starts at the Manacles Bouy, barely a mile from shore, where you can have 200 feet of water. While I was still yearning to catch a record Mako from this bouy (most of the big British Mako came from the Manacles area), we still decided to steam out past Coverack, towards the tip of the Lizard, where the tidal flow from the emptying bay would stream our chum trail out into the open Atlantic. Three sets of shark gear were run out.Shimano Technium rods in the 30/50lb class are more than enough for any British blue, and coupled to TLD 25 reels and 50lb Gardner Sufix Titanium line, meant that should a rogue Mako turn up in the slick, we would at least be in with a shout.
An hour into the drift and the particles of trout-soaked bran had lured a huge number of Garfish and baby Mackerel into the slick. Brian likes to keep an eye on his family record lists, just to make the day interesting, and when I spotted an extra-large Garfish we set about targeting it. Ten Gars later we got it.I believe 2lb 6ozs? That’s a three footer and acrobatic on light tackle. On the bottom-drifted baits you can usually target Whiting, but we had very few, and these seemed small. If there was one species I have seen a decline in, it’s the humble Whiting. Several trawlers worked our immediate area, and may have had a good number in their net. After two hours we were getting the “shark drifter’s doze”. That’s a gentle rocking of the boat, coupled to the warm sunshine and sparkling sea, dulling our senses comfortably. A ratchet screaming is the best wakeup call for any slumbering angler, and one of our Shimano reels was ticking line in fits and jerks.” Here, take this” I said as I passed the rod to Brian,” it’s probably a tiny blue of 15lbs pulling on the mackerel”. The strike was good, the hook set and the fish gradually neared the boat.Yet it was a strange battle, with lots of head shaking and dogged tugs.Through the surface I could gradually make out a shape. It looked like a grey shark? What was this all about? I hauled on the trace and this huge fish thrashed on the surface.” Get the net, it’s a big bass!” With the fish lying on the engine box I stared open-mouthed at a near 8lb bass. Choked on a 1 1/2lb mackerel, having sucked it in on a 12/0 Mustad hook on 600lb steel trace fished in 240 feet of water ???? I can only assume it was following the baby mackerel shoal attracted by our rainbow trout chum.
With the day already a huge success (a new family record) we reset all the baits and I crushed up the trout carcasses to release more oily particles. Another two hours passed, we tired of catching Garfish, and then away went the TLD25 on a vocal mission to give us both a coronary. Now this was definitely a shark run. The hook was set, and Brian spent the next twenty minutes with a serious bend in the rod before I could wire up a very nice blue. This was a potential third family record, so it was brought aboard, taped at about 85lbs, tagged with my NMFS dart tag, and released. A can of lager was cracked to celebrate. While Brian was keen to get back (we had drifted out and could now see past the Lizard to Land’s End) I persuaded him that such fine sharking conditions as this were few and far between. I just had a hunch we would get another shot.
The mackerel shoal of joeys seemed to stay with us late into the afternoon, and they were an ideal size for any bass. Needless to say a live joey had already been hooked up and was swimming round the boat. The problem was the sharks would easily snip through our nylon traces. With the late afternoon sun lowering in the sky it was soon 6 in the evening, and even I had to think about the long chug home. Suddenly, as happens when sharking, the trusty TLD 25 fired up and we watched the inside orange balloon go careening over the surface before it was violently snatched beneath the water. I struck, and was soon battling with another blue shark, this time a good deal smaller, though probably the national average, at some 45lbs.The steel blue flanks and white underbelly were perfect in colour as we tagged it before sliding the long form back into the water. With two waves of its tail it was gone and we were left with the job of packing up.
I am sure if we had fished on into the dark more would have come, but hey! we could hardly grumble with Garfish, Mackerel, Whiting, Bass and Blue shark caught. At 85lbs this was a decent blue for Brian, who sat at the helm of “Amarilla” a happy man, as he pointed her bow towards St.Anthony, and the long, cool pint awaiting him at the local pub in Manaccan. This tiny corner of Falmouth Bay had given us a taste of the best of Cornish fishing, what it was like for mixed sport thirty years ago. We had put in a long day and got our just rewards. Well almost … I still want to latch into a 350lb Mako. … Or am I living in the past? I think not. Nobody is really trying for them. So my advice to you is “watch this space”. It could be a “TOTALLY AWESOME MAKO SHARK !!”
COPYRIGHT. Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.