They say that some things in fishing are just meant to be and after a recent outcome I’m definitely left wondering…
The day had come to make the phone call to the charter skipper for confirmation of the 6-man shark fishing trip that had been booked for well over 12 months and the forecasts at the time were very unsavoury and changeable, so it was of no surprise to find that the winds had once again conspired to ruin our hopes and the trip was off. Feeling deflated I made the call to the other lads and then pondered on what other fishy adventure I could replace it with..
As a consolation I’d decided on a short day on Anglesey instead and so spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening making new rigs and getting together my kit. Over a coffee later I checked in on the world of Facebook and my attention was drawn to a post that friend Tony had commented on. Tony was one of the guys that had been booked on with me for the boat trip and reading further it then became apparent that the post was advertising a full charter for a days fishing aboard an exceptionally well know vessel named White Water skippered by Andrew Alsop and operating out of West Wales.
Fearing the places had already gone I was amazed to see that the 20 or so comments were mainly “ummmming and arggghing” and indeed the places were still available so I enquired about prices and quickly a message came through from a guy named Luke to say he had already claimed the charter but could I get a few heads to fill it. Immediately I dashed for the phone and called Tony.. excitedly I asked .. “You up for this Tony?” His reply.. “too right I am mate, put me on it!”
Straight away I got back to Luke and the meet up was arranged, we were on and going Shark fishing!
It was to be Tony’s first experience and only my second go at these predators and we couldn’t believe our luck to have landed a chance aboard with such a highly respected skipper.
The plan was for a 6.30am sail and as travelling down would take approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes a very early start was on the cards so Tony kindly offered me to stop over the night at his caravan en route and travel down together.
I was greeted by a tasty BBQ and a few beers with his family before getting our heads down at 10pm and rising again at the ungodly hour of 1.30am.
A traffic free and smooth drive down saw us arrive in plenty of time to a calm overcast morning at Neyland Marina where we met with Luke and his brother Tom. Handshakes done, we boarded White Water, a beautiful fully equipped 11.2m Cheetah Marine Catamaran powered by twin four stroke Evinrude 300 outboard engines.
More handshakes and introductions completed with fifth man Alan, and skipper Andrew before leaving for the open sea and the ‘Celtic Deeps’. The large engines made easy work of the journey out during which we were privileged to see different varieties of Dolphins, Sunfish and even the tail of what we believed to be a Bluefin Tuna. We arrived in shark territory some 40 miles out 1 hour 45 minutes later.
On cutting the engines, first job was to get the chum mix sorted and whilst we mixed this in readiness Andy the skipper made ready three rods, each with baits set at different depths, he didn’t get chance to set the fourth rod and the chum bucket hadnt touched the water when the first shark took the bait and another did so only a minute later, ratchets singing, 2 anglers were in action, rods bent over within 5 minutes of arrival!
The first fish to grace the deck was a fine Blue Shark of approximately 70lb quickly followed by a smaller but no less livelier fish of around 30lb, we barely had time to take pictures and admire them before it was the next persons turn to answer the call of another ratchet.. on my first attempt I was delighted to beat my previous best with a fish of 70 – 75lb
and within 30 minutes Tony had achieved his first-ever Blue with another fish of 75lb..
it was job done, we’d achieved our goals already.. anything else was a bonus…
Neither of us could have guessed that the trip would prove to be one of those ‘red letter days’ and this was only the start!
For 8 hours shark after shark visited us.. if they didnt take the baits they chomped on the floats, the chum bucket and even attempted one of the congregation of sea birds around us.
The overcast skies grew heavier and the wind increased but with it so did their hunger, the heavens opened but we had little time to notice the persistent rain and drizzle as the predators continued to feed and reel after reel screamed to the sound of a fleeing monster, triple hook ups were the norm and even four guys were attached to a hungry Blue on more than one occasion, in fact at times it was so hectic that it was hard to keep the order of turn!
Many of the fish landed were smaller males but what they lacked in weight they more than made up for in turbo power and tested both the reel drag and biceps.
During the course of the morning I smashed my personal best three times and many of us landed a high number of fish in the 80lb bracket.
During one rare short lived lull where Andy actually had time to make the only cuppa of the day, he predicted the appearance of the bigger fish in the afternoon .. as quick as we’d drank our tea the rods were away again!
Whilst playing a fish that later turned turned out to be another around 60-70lb, I caught sight of something on the surface some 100 yards out, I looked up to see a large hump and an upward spray of water.. “Whale!!” I shouted, just as it sank beneath the waves.
Moments later it surfaced again.. a Fin Whale only 20 yards from the boat! It was so close I could see the rough skin and barnacles around it’s blow hole.. it was huge! The width of it easily equalled the length of the deck space of the boat.. and it was heading towards us! I fully expected to feel the boat rise or a collision and moved towards the back of the boat in fear of it entangling with my hooked fish but whether the shark below spooked it or not we’re unsure but the creature turned and surfaced again 80 yards to our stern.. another amazing sight and a close encounter I’ll never forget. Despite its presence, the action never faltered. The sea was alive! And the sharks continued to feed.
Mid afternoon Andy made the call to remove the floats from two rods as the fish were in such a frenzy that they were rising up close and biting through the lines as they tried to engulf the floats. Freelining the baits a short distance was all that was needed and true to Andy’s word the stamp of fish increased and saw me breaking my PB yet again with a fish of 80-85lb.. it just got better and better!
By now everyone had caught fish of 75lb and above and as Tony brought one of the many small males to the side of the boat a large silhouette appeared alongside and actually made a lunge towards the head of his fish.. it circled the boat for at least ten minutes investigating the chum bucket and eyeing us up before I asked Andy if I could put out a bait to it.. straight away it showed interest in my float so I began winding the bait back slowly and as it neared the boat the float sailed away and line peeled off the reel.. giving it time to run I slowly increased the drag and then lifted to set the circle hook..fish on!!
Immediately it was off like a train and I could only hold on as the reel did it’s job, rod bent over nicely.. once the fish slowed I began the ‘tit for tat’ of regaining line only for the beast to take it back from me over a period of at least 15 to 20 minutes feeling every seering run and it diving back down every time I got it up to within sight of daylight, sometimes just hanging there awaiting me to lift the rod before running again.. at first wondering who was tiring who, we played tug o’ war but eventually the quality tackle giving me the edge and slowly but surely the steel wire leader surfaced for Andy to guide her through the purposely made side door… there she lay .. my prize .. in all her beauty… a new PB again at 90lb, I was elated!!
Photos were quickly taken and she was then shown the dignity she deserved as she was carefully unhooked and released again to elegantly swim off into the dark blue abyss.
No time to dwell.. Still shark upon shark took our baits and all the lads hooked into hard fighting fish after fish.
As we neared the final few hours both Alan and Tom land beauts with Alan finding a fine Blue of 85lb before Luke tops a mind blowing day with an absolute beast going over the magical ‘ton’ with a fish of 130lb..
The action is never ending, still more 70lb plus fish come and when the final call comes from Andy there’s no signs of disappointment.. arms aching but big smiles all round we reflect during the trip back to port on the day.
A total of 60 Blues between 5 of us, twelve of them each for myself and Tony, both earning new PB’s of 90lb and 75lb respectively.. not to mention seeing that 130lber and a huge Whale… what a day, awake for 22 hours by the time I arrived back at Tony’s caravan, 7 of them spent driving.. well worth the miles and loss of sleep.