An Early Start
We would be leaving Penzance Harbour at 6:30am and it was due to be a long day on the water. We would be heading way offshore in search of the magnificent Blue Shark. This pelagic sharks live a nomadic life and travel huge distances across across the ocean in search of food, mainly baitfish such as Mackerel and Herring as well as Squid. The sea temperatures around Cornwall were just about warm enough for them to turn up here and Bite Adventures would be heading out to see if they had arrived.
Bite Adventures is skipped by Robin 'Chippy' Chapman, one of the top skippers this country has to offer and certainly has an impressive catch record to boast. His boat Bite Adventures has seen some huge fish over the years and the waters of West Cornwall offers some of the finest fishing in the country, the type of fishing you will drool at! A top bloke too and what he doesn't know about fishing isn't really worth knowing. He was busy prepping the boat on arrival....
There would be a fine group of reprobates on the boat today, local angler Scott, one of Cornwall's top boat anglers Bob and the top Jam Master Kieren, also known as my brother. Ropes away and we headed off to find some fresh Mackerel for bait. Bite really shifts. She is a 9 metre North Sea Catamaran and is powered by twin 200hp four stroke Honda outboards. These really chuck out some power with an oblivion of white water off the stern. We were going places quick.... Less time travelling so more time for fishing!
We soon stopped and tried for the mackerel which were proving scarce. We managed a handful in half an hour, just enough for bait. I found a Pollack too. Time to head out to the grounds! Plenty of banter later and we arrived.
The Shark Fishing Grounds....
Chum mashed up, rods set up, baits prepped to perfection and one by one 4 rods were set fishing at varying depths in the water column in the hope of finding a shark. It was a glorious day and everything felt just right....
The gear used on Bite is top quality stuff. The boat is sponsored by Fin-Nor - a world leader in big game fishing gear. We were using both Fin-Nor rods and reels and they are superb. Chippy hand makes his shark rigs with great attention to detail, perfected over many years of shark charter fishing. The shark fishing on Bite Adventures is strictly catch and release with every effort made to ensure the fish go back with minimal harm. The rig is terminated in a strong circle hook providing a clean jaw hook up - no deep hooking so less damage to the fish, and quicker unhooking too. Now we just needed fish!
With 5 on the boat we had to fairly decide who would get first fish. Chippy put himself as 5th on the rods leaving 4 of us to pick out numbered sticks to decide which order we would get our go on the rods. Number 1 went to Scott, Number 2 went to Kieren, I picked out Number 4 leaving Bob with Number 3. I'd have to see 3 fish on board before i got a shot.... fingers crossed! The slick was forming nicely....
Whilst the shark rods were being set, Bob had snuck a bottom bait down and was soon into a fish. But not any old fish, oh no... he had only hooked a rare Cuckoo Ray! The stunning fish was soon on the deck. What a cracker and not often caught on rod and line. This was Bite Adventures though and this fish turned out to be the 3rd Cuckoo Ray caught that week!
A super start. Chippy kept a watchful eye on the shark floats....
Click, Click, Click.....
An hour passed before everyone's heads swung around to the sound of a clicking ratchet. That sound really gets the adrenaline pumping! A Shark had grabbed one of the baits and Scott leaped into action. That sound signalled the start of Bite Adventures 2017 Shark Fishing season. Chippy ensured the fish was hooked up and Scott was soon bent into a fish. The sharks were here!
A good scrap and the fish arrived at the surface. The deck was prepped ready for its arrival. Fresh seawater wetted the deck with many buckets of water aside ready to keep the fish cool. The side door was opened and the fish brought to it. Chippy got a firm grip of its pectoral fin and brought the fish on board. The fish was held still and quickly unhooked. Cool sea water was poured over the fish whilst everyone prepped for a quick photo. Chippy gave Scott and Kieren the low down on how best to hold the fish keeping it well supported out of the water and it was time for the money shot.... One happy angler with a Blue of around 60lb!
It was soon released back to the sea and dived back to the depths, excellent! The mood onboard was now very positive. This was the first Blue Shark to be caught in the UK for the 2017 season.
The chum slick was tended too periodically to maintain a constant trail of scent in the water. Another hour passed by before another fish showed up. It was Kieren's turn. Hook set and off the fish ran....
A good fight. The was deck wetted and prepped and shark number 2 was soon being brought on board for unhooking, a quick photo and release. That was Kieren happy, a Blue Shark of around 50lb.
With Kieren's fish released and the rods reset, it was Bob next on the rods. He is well known for being one to pull out some proper girt lickers - that's big fish for those not from round ere'. He has had some monsters over the years and he was sure to keep telling us that shark number 3 would be the big one. I kept telling him it would be number 4 but he wasn't having it. Almost exactly another hour later (did these sharks have a timetable!?!) i spotted one of the rod tips lurching over. "Shark!!!!" and with that everyone leapt into action. All rods were wound in as before, Bob took hold of the rod and he was soon bent into a lumpy fish.... maybe he was right!!
This fish was clearly bigger than the previous two. It gave a great account for itself and required plenty of stick to get it to the boat. We peered over the gunwales and watched the fish appear from the depths. It was certainly the biggest one so far today. A great fight lasting 10-15 minutes and the fish was then brought on board. A quick measure of the sharks length and girth put the fish at 97lb using the calculation method to give an estimated weight. A stunning Blue Shark!
It was soon powering off back to the depths. My turn.....
The Big Blue.....
I had patiently watched 3 sharks come on board and whilst i wasn't all that confident i'd see a fish at the start of the day, i was now in a very different mindset. With several hours still left of the day i was feeling good. Number 4 would be the big one i just knew it! Another hour passed by. Every so often the gulls that were sitting in the chum trial would spook. There was something they didn't like in the water below. They knew.
It is quite hard to describe the feeling that the word "Shark" can bring about when you know it is your turn on the rods. With that one word shouted across the deck a massive shot of adrenaline took me from 0 to 100! Chippy had hold of the rod and passed it over to me telling me this was a big fish. The fish was hooked and was powering off on a long run despite the drag being tightened down. I could feel the sheer power of the fish desire it being several hundreds yards away.
This fish was giving me a workout and after 10 minutes of battle and the fish still down deep we knew this fish was of different calibre to the others. This was the girt licker! The Fin-Nor Offshore rod and Fin-Nor Marquesa reel were coping excellently and allowed some serious pressure to be applied using the bottom half of the rod whilst still feeling a reasonably light set up for big fish.... it was perfectly balanced and it was a joy to play the fish on. With a big fish on, it was time to be serious.....
No chance of that with Bob around.... on went the Shark mask! Chippy provided great advice on how to best persuade the fish towards the surface and after plenty of arm aching and expletives later we got our first glimpse of the beast. That's big!!!!
It came up beneath the boat but Chippy told me to get ready and this fish was about to take a dive. With a grab of the wire leader the fish turned and headed straight back down at speed.....
In a matter of seconds the fish had stripped 300ft of line reaching the sea bed below! Time for more hard work to coax it back to the boat. My arms were killing! Another 15 minutes passed before the fish was beside the boat and ready to come on board. This was going to take a team effort.
Chippy and Bob donned some gloves and Kieren stood ready to control the fish and keep the rig clear for quick unhooking. Chippy and Bob got a firm hold of the fish and lifted it through the door and onto the wetted deck. YYYEEEEESSSSSS!!! We all cheered with relief having got the fish on board. It was certainly over 100lb and just looking at the fish i would have said 150lb. This was a big shark.
We held the fish firmly on the deck to prevent it trashing around and causing itself or somebody an injury. The hook was cleanly set in the jaw and was soon removed with a T-bar disgorger. Plenty of water was poured over the beast to keep it cool. Out with the tape measure.... Fork length was 93 inches and girth was 38 inches. The Shark Weight Calculation Formula (Length x Girth x Girth / 800) gave an estimated fish weight of 167lb!!! I was over the moon! Photo time.... Me at the head end, Kieren at the tail and Bob supporting the belly....
Wow.... Just wow! Holding the fish it felt every pound of it's calculated weight and was certainly the biggest fish i have ever caught. Pure elation. This fish was absolutely stunning and in pristine condition. Chippy and Scott snapped a few photos before it was time to get this big girl back in the water. No sooner had it hit the water it had powered off back to the depths from where it came. I was graced with its presence on board for little more than a couple of minutes before it was released to carry on its way. I couldn't have felt better having seen it swim away strongly. We all cheered with joy!! It soon became apparent that i had set a new boat record for Mounts Bay Angling Society too, beating the previous record set by Chippy himself at 162lb.
Whilst i was the angler who reeled the fish in this was certainly a team effort in getting it on the boat and my thanks go to the guys for helping out. I took little time in telling Bob that Number 4 was indeed the big one as i had been telling him. Chippy was looking forward to seeing how big number 5 would be!! We still had well over an hour left before we needed to head back to Penzance so there was time. I sat back in the sun and soaked up the moment. I was knackered, the shark had given me a right pasting! Unfortunately another run did not materialise for Chippy. What a day it had been though. The first sharks of the 2017 had been caught on Bite Adventures and there was a big girl amongst them. What better way to kick off the 2017 shark season.... Happy Days! Top skipping from Chippy.... It's a day i'll never forget.
For more information about Bite Adventures including latest catch reports and trip bookings visit their website www.biteadventures.com or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/Biteadventures/
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