Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My First Shark Fishing Trip

It was 1975 and I had a week off from the Police Department. A close friend of mine and I decided to fly down to Southern California for a couple of days to have some fun checking out Disneyland, Universal Studios, drinking and dancing at the clubs in Hollywood (maybe get discovered). You know, just a fun time. We only had a few days because we wanted to be back in time to drive up to the annual shark fishing tournament at Bodega Bay.

The day we got back from our excursion south was also the opening day for the movie Jaws. Well, we just had to see that, so, we went to a drive-in, anxious to see what everyone was saying was a really great movie. It was a great movie, so good in fact that I started having some real reservations about the shark fishing tournament. Jaws was definitely not a good movie to see before going to a bay known as a breeding ground for Great White Sharks.

I kept my “fears” to myself and we got up the next morning at 4 am to make the drive north to Bodega Bay. We met my friends brother (twin) and the brother’s wife who already had a section of beach all staked out and had all the fishing equipment, coolers, beer and food we were going to need.

We were located on a long sandy beach at the end of a tidal inlet. The beach was about 20 yards wide and then turned to a soggy mudflat when the tide was out. The sharks liked to come in as the tide changed to scavenge wherever might be floating around. I was surprised to see a large number of shark fins cruising around out there. They were mostly leopard sharks so they are not known to be aggressive towards humans, but still -well, it’s not a beach you’ll ever get me to go swimming at.

We all baited out hooks with squid and tossed our lines into the channel in the center of the inlet. About ten minutes later, I saw a dorsal fin heading right towards my line. About 20 feet before it reached the bait, it slipped out of sight under water. A second later the shark hit my bait so hard it nearly pulled the rod out of my hands.

I got excited and started yelling. My friends all looked my way and then, instead of coming to help me out, they put their rods down, walked back, opened a couple of beers and sat on the bank to enjoy the show.

I pulled and reeled in, then pulled and reeled in again, fighting for every inch. After a while, the shark came up on the shallows and then onto the slippery mud. The shark was a good five feet long and was obviously mad as hell. He had no intention of giving in. I got him up fairly close to me on the sand and looked to my friend.

“What do I do now?” I asked. “Come over here and help me out!”

“You don’t need any help. Just get him in real close, then time it carefully and just stomp down on his head and keep it pinned in the sand.” My friend called back.

I stood there, watching the biting and snapping shark, flaying around on the sand and determined to get a piece of me. The opportunity finally presented itself and I put my left foot down, pinning his head into the sand. Proud of my accomplishment, I turned to my friends and asked, “Okay, now what?’

At that point the three of them broke into hysterical laughter and my friend said, “Don’t ask me! I’m not dumb enough to stand in the middle of the beach with an angry 5-foot shark under my foot!” 

What I had under foot

What I thought I had under foot

Well, it all eventually worked out when my friends finally came over and helped me subdue the beast. We caught 9 sharks that day. We turned them in at the tournament headquarters where a team of Marine Biologists examined and dissected them. The meat was put on grills and served up. (Yes, it does taste like chicken…)

Although I had a good time, the experience pretty much ended my shark fishing days. I did have a brush with an eight-foot Thresher off Hawaii a dozen years later -but that’s a story for another time.

Y’all have a blessed day now, hear?

Live Long and Prosper...

No comments: