Report By Rupert Drury
This was the earliest I’d booked a shark trip from Whitby and though all the captures from the port have been from July onwards, previous sightings reported to me over the last 2 years in June led me to believe that a booking a trip ths month could possibly be worthwhile.
I’d been scanning this site for reports on mackerel catches for several weeks as these are vital for the trip. Reports suggested that the mackerel to be pretty thin on the ground and perhaps arriving later than in previous years, so I was starting to wonder whether I had in fact booked too soon.
Rich Ward’s text to me on Monday confirming that mackerel were very scarce did nothing to bolster my confidence either! Luckily, I had a few stone already frozen from last year as back up, but ideally we needed fresh â€“ particularly for the hook baits.
We arrived at Whitby shortly after 5.00 am. Rich Ward with his crewman John Wilcox was already preparing the boat. I had brought John Farrow (Mystic Girl on this forum) along for the ride.
There’s quite a lot of gear to move onto the boat for a shark trip, so by the time we had everything on board, it was just after 5.30 am when we finally set sail.
First stop was at the Whitby bell boy to try for mackerel, which resulted in three blank drifts.
Things weren’t looking good. The weather was none too great either and we endured a bouncy ride in a rolling sea out to the Competition wreck where, in absence of mackerel, we were going to catch whatever we could for hook bait; ideally a few Pollock.
Between us, we had a variety of tactics, shads, pirks and feathers and it was some relief when my feather rod vibrated in my hand, the first mackerel of the day. We managed only seven of these before they had gone, despite several more drifts.
We should have had more, but someone who I won’t embarrass in public had automatic catch and release programmed in to his mackerel rod, getting a full house, then dropping them off the feathers on the wrong side of the boat .
We took the decision to make the best of the day and head out to the Wall with what bait we had. Richard and John W got the boat anchored and I dropped some feathers over the side on the off chance I might pick up some bonus mackerel.
Our luck was in and over the next 20 minutes we filled two thirds of a fish box. Next job was to get the rubby dubby made and working, so it was another hour or so before the fourth and last shark rod was finally positioned.
Meanwhile, the two Johns busied themselves with some bottom fishing, catching some nice table sized cod and ling.
The shark rods lay quiet for nearly 3 hours when, at 11.30 am one of the ratchets sounded on the closest rod.
I was standing next to the rod, so I picked it up straightaway, knocked it out of gear and let the shark run with the bait.
The fish moved steadily away into the depths and after 25 yards of line had peeled off the reel, the lever drag was slid forward, smartly pulling the line tight up to the preset drag limit. Rod up, game on! Everyone else grabbed a shark rod and wound them in, to get the other lines quickly out of the way.
The shark continued towards the bottom at a 45 degree angle, nothing hurried, just steadily unstoppable. For the next 30 minutes it was a game of win line, lose line.
Once I felt the shark was properly hooked, I passed the rod round to the others just so they could feel what a shark actually felt like, but the responsibility of having hold of such a prize meant that the rod was promptly returned to me, lest it got off!
As the fish came closer to the boat, it did the usual porgy trick of diving under the boat, but this time it kept it up and I went right round the boat at least four times before the fish was tired enough to be brought alongside.
I won’t bore you with too much detail of the fight as I hope Sam can post some video clips taken at the time. Rich finally got a hand into its gill and lifted its head part out the water.
John W did likewise on the other side. The weight of the shark made it pretty difficult to lift onboard, but with an adrenaline fuelled heave from skipper and crew, the shark was slid onto the deck.
The 10/0 sea demon hook was right in inside edge of the top jaw and this was easily removed with the purpose made disgorger. Tagged, measured and the shark was safely returned back into the sea.
It really felt fantastic to have boated another good Whitby shark. The moment was further enhanced when Rich produced a bottle of port and we all had a celebration gulp or three.
By this time, the full heat of the June sun was shining down on us and the middle of the North Sea felt a pretty good place to be………With the time being a little after midday, we felt that there could be time to catch a second shark and joked how amazing that would be.
I have to admit that after an early start, the rough journey out to the Wall and the euphoria of the shark; it took some effort not to have a quick snooze.
The skipper must have felt pretty similar and all I can say is that for a while, he took full advantage of the seating in the cabin!
We’d decided to call it a day at 4.30pm and for the last hour and a half we kept the rubby dubby trail going with the last of the mackerel. Around 4.00pm the same rod sounded for the second time, but only a very quick buzz on the ratchet.
At first nothing could be felt, and then I sensed a bump. This was definitely another enquiry! Line very slowly trickled off the spool, but after 10 to 15 yards the speed increased.
I waited for another 15 seconds with line running off smartly, then the line stopped. Bollocks. I wound in the remaining front half of the mackerel which had been bitten clean in two ..
Not 20 minutes later, whilst standing at the stern of the boat, I saw a bluey grey shape glide past less than 10 feet away – the shark was back! I picked the rod with the nearest bait and wound it closer to the stern. The shark weaved too and fro and for the next minute or two we were treated to a remarkable close up spectacle of a free swimming porgy.
With the bait only a matter of feet away, surely the shark would take it, wouldn’t it? The shark melted away from view and with it went my expectations of a second capture, until hang on, the lines just bumped again! A second chance indeed? This time after a nice steady run, the reel line pulled properly tight. Game on, scene 2!!
With the shark being hooked so close to the boat, it was tempting to think it was easy to boss it, particularly as it was slightly smaller than the first.
This time I didn’t need to lap the boat quite so many times and I noticed that when the rod was passed over for another feel’ a growing confidence let the others hold on to it a bit longer this time! Again, the video clip will be worth ten times my words, so I suggest you have a look at that, rather than read my ramblings!! In the vids you will hear the ratchet on the reel go as the shark runs â€“ It probably irritates some people, but when you’re on the end of the bent rod, trust me, its music to your ears!! For that reason I like to re-engage it, once the shark is on.
So in essence, that’s about it really. Two sharks landed, tagged, measured and safely returned in one North Sea trip. I feel that I’ve been incredibly lucky and had my season’s quota in one trip, so although I will be doing more again next month, I’m aware that I mustn’t build my hopes up too much, as I’ve had my share of blanks in the past!
Rich Ward has described it as one of his best days as a charter skipper for 25 years. Buzzing as I still am, I wouldn’t argue with that either.
Shark Fishing Videos By Rupert