Up until around 1990, it was common to see huge sharks of various types cruising on the surface, particularly on calm days. Large Tiger sharks, Makos and Hammerheads were often sighted.
In fact during the early days when it was the norm to fish with dead baits, these sharks were often a major problem to us.
One could sometimes spend several hours catching marlin bait, only to have a shark come after it as soon as you put it out ! We were primarily after marlin, so if these precious baits were taken by a shark, it meant one had to then head back inshore to try and catch more bait. Not an option we favoured !
By speeding up and doing several changes of direction, one could sometimes shake them off, except for the hammerheads, whose incredible sense of smell usually meant that after a few minutes the brute was back again.
Sometimes my anglers would want to catch a shark, and then the usual ploy was to tow the baits slowly past the nose of a finning shark, and let him take it.
The fight was normally a bit like trying to lift a dead horse off the bottom of the Ocean, and just about as exciting, until the shark was finally brought to boatside, when it became very exciting indeed – especially for the crew who had to deal with it !
In the early days we used straight-butt 80 lb rods, and with these, a really big tiger shark would take about 2 hours to bring up. It was then a toss-up who was the most exhausted, the angler or the shark !!
However, having seen the advantages of curved butt rods in Australia, I soon got several of these, and using the same line, the fight time was reduced to only 15 minutes. A considerable advantage !
In those days it was normal to boat these things, or rather to tow them behind the boat, because a shark in the boat is a real danger to all on board, and I never allowed them to be brought aboard. We used a lasso of light chain, and this was first passed around the leader before causing the shark to swim through the loop of chain, until near the tail it was pulled tight and tied to a cleat. The shark was then towed by the tail which soon drowned it.
We took sharks up to 984 lbs in this way, and sometimes one would even get two in one day.
Today, sharks are a rarity due entirely to the advent of the long-line fleet. For those unfamiliar with the long-line, each vessel lays up to 50 kms of line adorned with 3000 baited hooks. There is a radio buoy on one end, and the ship can lay out the line at around 8 knots. Every 200 metres or so is a buoy and the line then hangs in a downward curve between buoys, so that the hooks are at varying depths. When the ship has laid the last buoy, it then homes in on the radio signal fromÂ the first buoy, and then works its’ way back down the line boating any fish caught, and rebaiting the hooks. It is therefore a continuous process 24 hrs a day.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of vessels fishing in this way, and the catches are measured in the hundreds ofÂ thousands of metric tons. Although mainly targeting Tunas, Sharks are particularly vulnerable to this method of fishing, as they readily gulp down these baits. However the long liners only want the fins, so the shark is hauled aboard, its fins are sliced off and the shark thrown back into the sea to die a horrible death.
No longer do we see big sharks cruising the surface of the Pemba Channel, and I think if nothing is done to halt this slaughter, then sharks will very soon be extinct, World wide. If Iwere to catch one now, I would certainly release it.