The Best Porbeagle Fishing in the World?
The craggy and enigmatic coastline of the south west, pummelled and shaped by giant Atlantic rollers to leave golden sand bays and eroded cliffs that touch the sky, is a place of pilgrimage for the sport fishermen. Launching a boat from an old smuggler’s harbour takes you to reefs that provide springtime refuge to monsters far beyond the imagination of even the young children building sandcastles peacefully on the beach. For those lucky and foolhardy enough, attributes needed in equal measure, a battle with such a beast is both brutal and intense as the amphitheatre created by the coastline provides a challenge equal to anywhere in the world. Dudes with surfboards and campervans are convinced they are the only ones heading west for extreme sport but compared to the porbeagle shark angler their adrenalin fix amounts to no more than a kid paddling between rock pools!
My mind is willing for such an adventure and my body just about capable; a place that after years of such hunts my companion Andy Griffith also finds himself. We are both in a tiny category of anglers who have tempted 5 different marine species from the British Isles over 100lbs, something I quote not to boast about skill but simply bloody mindedness and dedication. Talking about it is not an option, doing it is what counts and to achieve our aims we know finding a skipper with special skills is vital. Men such as Alsop, Campbell and Molloy can make dreams come true and in recent years a Cornish man brought up on the sea can be added to the Pantheon of greats – Jerry Rogers. The glint in his eye is the same as the others when he talks about his passion, huge porbeagle sharks in spring, and it was for these that Andy and I had made the long journey to Jerry’s arena, confident that no man would give us a better chance of finding the leviathans we sought.
Sea fishing comes only at the invitation of the weather but with 2 days set fair she had opened the doors to the Atlantic and for that we left harbour in darkness a happy crew full of dreams for the new shark season. Jerry knows the dangerous reefs like the back of his hand allowing us to explore places that even locals fear to go. In the half light as we continued our journey I understood why as huge rock formations suddenly rose from the sea without forgiveness or warning, capable of smashing a ship in 2 quicker than the Kraken and the words of Tennyson were apt ‘then once by man and angels to be seen, in roaring he shall rise and on the surface die’. Our captain however had no intention of falling foul and the sharks, we hoped, didn’t have to remain unmentioned for fear of being called liars until we had photographic proof.
A brooding dawn rose in the west and the deck of the ‘White Cheetah’ became a busy place. Unlike shark fishing in the Celtic Deeps where a daylong drift occurs there would be a series of short half hour drifts targeting specific gulleys and drop offs. A bag of chum made from bran, herring and mackerel with a liberal dose of salmon oil would still be used to raise interest and cleverly Jerry had removed all the mess and hard work by manufacturing frozen blocks of the groundbait on dry land and then bringing a supply to last the day. Once popped into a sack, which was tied to the boat and placed in the sea, a slick would mark our path. To further enhance this scent trail we also started each drift with a good glug of Sticky’s Krill liquid because previous experience has taught me that carp style attractors can really help. Three rods were erected; the first 2 being traditional 50lb class boat roads and multipliers, each supporting a balloon for a float, an uptrace and a trace leading to a circle hook. A heavy spinning rod rated 50-100lb class was last to be erected combined with a powerful fixed spool reel and 80lb braid. The terminal tackle was the same save for the balloon because the whole mackerel hookbait would be free-lined and the rod held at all times. Preparations complete, the drift began and the tension was palpable – what lived beneath us?
For 20 minutes we saw no signs and then without warning a shark was in the slick, its squat body weaving between the balloons before sinking away from view. Why hadn’t this fish, which we estimated in the region of 200lbs, taken one of the baits? Despite their size and persona porbeagles are timid creatures when not in strike mode so it wasn’t a surprise but if another picked up on the scent then we would have competition and a different story.
A gentle pluck on the rod I held was the first sign, no more than you would expect from a wrasse nibbling on a rag worm. However I knew from experience a fish bigger than me was more than capable of holding the whole mackerel delicately and removing it from the hook if it so wished – I focussed more than ever. Two more tiny taps came but I was powerless to act for a J hook relies on a strike but the circle relies on pressure and the fish needs to pull away as you slowly apply tension with the drag. The boat fell silent and we waited. The silence was punctuated by a purring clutch as I wound up the drag until the circle hook found an anchor and then all hell let loose with a shark far bigger than the original visitor realising something was wrong.
Spectacularly it stayed on the surface thrashing its tail in defiance 100 then 200 yards away from the boat. More braid was soon stretched across the sea than on the spool and despite the distance we could still clearly see a dorsal and a long way back a tail fin indicating a huge beast! Porbeagles are dirty fighters and it knew we could chase if required so next it turned into the tide and ran straight for us at a rate of knots. Now I needed to reel as fast as I could without rest for a minute until lactic acid burnt my arm and shoulder. Such pain needed to be endured and in a perverse way enjoyed as the battle had 1hr 10 minutes to run – the reward however was the sight of a beetle car with fins weighing approximately 400lbs sitting in front of me as I, spent of energy, hung over the railing. Then with a sharp tug from Jerry the hook intentionally failed and my nemesis sunk from view, none the worse for breaking this puny human! My reward however a memory of a creature only a few know exist in the UK.
For 2 days we enjoyed and celebrated the best porbeagle shark fishing in the world as well as Jerry’s seamanship. Andy had his own tales to tell future grandchildren with monsters to 320lbs. I was also tested again in a titanic tussle that Jerry described as the best ever lasting 1 hour 50 minutes and only overcoming the shark 1½ nautical miles from where it was hooked. To give you an idea of average size only 1 could be brought on board, as the others were far too big! We live in a special place that men like our skipper can open your eyes to. Such fish do not belong to warmer climates, TV shows and a chosen few but anyone willing to go on an adventure.
Jerry Rogers runs Fast Cats fishing specialising in not only shark fishing but bass as well and can be contacted on 07968 986027, 01209 891816 or via www.fastcatsfishing.co.uk