The photo below was taken at about 2:45 p.m. this past Sunday. If you want to know why the horizon is all wonky and there’s half a finger in the shot, it’s because it was snapped with a cell phone hastily during the utter chaos that ensues when a mako shark is on the line. In this particular instance, it was a 150-pound mako that inhaled a bluefish strip not 20 yards behind my boat, giving us three incredible jumps before sounding. So what’s the big deal? I’ll tell you.
For starters, we were hunting thresher sharks and black tips a mere 15 miles from land. It’s a fun summer time catch-and-release game that’s great when you want a bigger tug than a flounder’s. But the chances of a large mako ending up in the spot we were fishing, while not impossible, are extremely rare. The fish caught me and the crew completely off guard. More importantly, it was the first mako ever hooked on my boat. Though my single-engine outboard can get me 30 miles off on a calm day, for the most part, makos are out of my range.
So there we were, frantically clearing the deck and working the engine to manuever the fish. Though I don’t often kill sharks, this mako was special, and we decided to take it. Within 10 minutes I had it boatside, but the flying gaff bounced off when we took a stab and it dove again. Swing and a miss. For the next half-hour I worked the shark back to the surface and just as we got it boatside again, within two feet of the gaff, it shot backwards, shook its head and bit through the leader. Twenty minutes after that photo was taken, my smile turned to a frown.
Though I’ve lost thousands of great fish in my life, none has ever stung quite as much as this one. It’s been two days and my stomach is still in a knot. I know I’m not the only one to feel this pain, so let’s hear your best (or worst) fish loss story. I need some cheering up.