Friday, 11 October 2013

5-6/10/13 Jupiter Gets Porbeagles.

At the beginning of this year I had a burning ambition to consistently catch tope from my local area and the thought of catching a 'proper' shark from my new boat was a distant dream.
At that time my sole encounter with larger U.K ' toothy ones'(I've caught bronze whaler shark from a surf beach in Namibia) had been one tope of about 50lb that I was reluctant to bring on board my little Orkney 520 a couple of seasons back.
How times have changed. The tope fishing saga is documented in the blog and, the blue shark fishing has been, by my modest standards, a runaway success but, I was still desperate to catch a North Cornwall porbeagle shark from my Warrior .
I was lucky enough to catch  my first ever porbeagle, in July, towing Wayne's Wilson Flyer to Boscastle, but I truly wanted to get one alongside 'Jupiter' and time ,was running out.
 My U.K 50lb Rovex and 4/0 Senator had coped with that first big shark, but they had been pushed to the limit so,  whilst down in Falmouth on the last 'blue' trip, I managed to meet up with Paul from 'Rokmax', try out, and purchase a pair of superb 'Star' brand  30/50 one piece stand up sticks from the U.S.A which are completely different to anything that's regularly available in our country.
I've matched these up with a brace of left hand 6/0 Senators, one of which I converted myself with parts from U.K Penn supplier-Mick Simons. These outfits are far more powerful than my  50s ,despite the confusing nominal line ratings, and should cope admirably with anything I'm likely to encounter in British waters including hopefully, one day, a local thresher shark.
I've spent a lot of time this year researching how to go about catching the North Cornwall porbeagle sharks and by far the most difficult problem to solve, is actually getting the boat down to the isolated grounds that I choose to fish.
Boscastle slip is simply too small for my Warrior and the risk of damaging the boat when launching there is too high. Bude, although very close to the target area is, it would appear from advice I've been given by the local anglers,  a treacherous launch with a fierce surf break. The Bideford and Barstaple based slips are simply too  restricted by the tide to be convenient which leaves Ilfracombe, and it's picturesque harbour.
The disadvantage with Ilfracombe is it's sheer distance from the marks. The journey is 28 nautical miles and,  one has to negotiate Hartland Point , and it's legendary tide race caused by the Bristol Channel emptying its not inconsiderable contents into the Atlantic ocean twice daily on the ebb tide.
The decision to actually go on this trip was very much made at the last minute . I'd spotted a three day weather window in my leave slot that coincided with favourable tide times i.e running to and from the mark with the tide, and had contacted Wayne , to see if he was up for it, just two days prior to leaving.
The weather held, the boat was on its trailer having just had an engine service anyway, Wayne was good to go, I had plenty of chum, so we hitched her up and went for it-just like that.
Ilfracombe is indeed a superb facility. The slipway is excellent and the tide 'window' is approximately three hours either side of high water which is  reassuring if are forced to cut short a trip.The harbour dries but, is soft sand , there are very convenient visitor's moorings available and the prices are extremely reasonable indeed, especially compared to those that we're accustomed to in Sussex.
 We launched the boat  on  Friday afternoon and my good friend, and Ilfracombe contact  Nick (Pix) Dabney lent us his tender so we could get to and from the mooring.
Saturday dawned and there was still residue swell  from recent westerly winds but, at least the breeze itself had died so we set off on our mission. Everything was fine on the journey down until we reached Hartland and then 'all hell' let loose.
Of course, it didn't look too bad from a distance but as we approached the tide race the extent of the turmoil was apparent, and we soon found ourselves in a huge, by my standards, sea. Despite continuing to make a good ground speed running with the tide at about 10kts, the boat was bucking quite violently and I decided to 'bail out' of the maelstrom, making a quick turn and running alongside the race until I felt it safe to resume the originally intended course.
It was an exhilarating experience which hugely added to my confidence in the boat and certainly honed my handling skills and, I can honestly say that, at no time, did I feel at all threatened. However, it was prudent to take , what I judged at the time, to be the safe option and Wayne agreed.
Down tide of the point the sea calmed considerably and we soon arrived at our destination, settled  on our chosen drift line, and set our chum trail. Unfortunately, we waited all day for one solitary run-a tope of about 20lb to one of Wayne's baits but, that is shark fishing.
What was noticeable compared to our last visit, were the small number of bait fish . Our feathers were completely ignored and we reasoned that this may be the reason for our lack of shark takes.They simply, may not have been there, at least, in any significant numbers.
The run home with the flood was much kinder and, skirting the coastline closely ,we actually ran directly through the middle of the Hartland race experiencing minimal chop over the reef at the mark.A startling contrast to our experience on the ebb tide.
Day two arrived and I'd invited Nick along for the ride not only to try to catch his first shark (he'd had four failed attempts) but also to see how three aboard would work out. Good teamwork ensured no problems on that score.
This time around we steered well clear of the Hartland race which considerably added to the distance travelled and , judging by what we could see of the race, may not have been strictly necessary but ,It's always better to be safe than sorry, especially in alien waters.
We started our drift slightly north of the previous day's  and still had a steady knot or two of drift speed running with the ebb. We were each allocated a rod on float gear and  ,as skipper,I was also charged with a  rod simply dropped with a weight attached twenty feet or so directly under the boat.

As usual the salted chum sent out a superb trail and we sat back and waited on the almost flat calm sea.The ebb tide finished with no action and, as the boat turned for the flood ,we drifted closer to the shore and into slightly shallower 60ft depths, and within earshot of the waves breaking over the rocky coastline.
It was Nick's bait(the deepest and furthest set) that first to go with a short burst of 'music' before I managed to quickly, grab the rod, and reduce any resistance to zero by knocking off the clicker. Nothing happened.
 I felt the line tension momentarily but I couldn't be sure it was a bite. I handed Nick the rod anyway and kitted him out with the butt pad just in case.
Still nothing happened for , what seemed like a long time, but  I just sensed there was a shark there and,although both Wayne and Nick felt the gear had snagged the sea bed, we instructed Nick to gently tighten up and slowly wind in .
It did indeed appear, as the boat continued to drift, that the gear  had been snagged as it only gradually moved up tide but  then suddenly Nick reported that he'd felt a couple of solid thumps,the rod took on the fighting curve and 'our man' was 'IN'. The shark must have been dozing.!
The expression on Nick's face as he felt the power of the fish was priceless- a look of complete surprise especially as the fish stole line at a considerable pace on it's first run. Nick was having the time of his life and after about twenty minutes had the shark under control and near enough to the boat for us to get a decent look-a nice shark of about 80-90lb we estimated.
We'd had to run up the engine to take evasive action when the shark dived under the hull, and it was interesting to see the trail line on the plotter and how the fish had towed us around before we managed to gain the upper hand .
With Wayne filming I had my first chance at playing 'skipper', donning the gloves and getting 'up close and personal' with the porbeagle which was released by cutting the trace as close as possible to the fish.It was , yet again, a fantastic sight seeing the shark swim free and Nick was naturally elated,and not a little beaten up by his capture.His first shark and nearly double the size of his previous personal best fish of any specie, and the first porbeagle to Jupiter. I was chuffed to bits.In fact, we all were.
Very soon afterwards the bait on my second rod was bitten cleanly in half accompanied by a short violent burst on the ratchet.It's entirely possible that the culprit could have been a shark but, i'll never know for sure.
With time running out before we would have to leave to get back to port in daylight, I casually mentioned that it would be nice to get another one before going home and, almost immediately, the close in bait was taken , Wayne set the hook, and passed the rod to me.
A less spectacular fight than my own first porgie but nevertheless a whole heap of fun, and I handed the rod back to Wayne as the shark approached the boat to give him a 'bit of a play' and allow me once again to carry out the 'release'. A slightly bigger shark this time possibly approaching 100lb and again, cleanly released.
Unfortunately we didn't get another chance to even drop a bait down but, we'd all experienced a bit of action and it was immensely satisfying to get , not only Nick his first ever shark, but to realise the ambition of getting a porbeagle in Jupiter. A feat that rounds off a superb first year's sharking for me and one that I've found immensely rewarding.
The run home was super quick and smooth and was  carried out on just one tank of fuel at an average speed of 18kts for the hour and half run.
There would have been a third day but Wayne and me decided that we'd achieved our aim, learned loads in the process and, as there obviously weren't that many shark around, possibly due to lack of bait fish, we decided to pull the boat out, and head home that evening.
Mission accomplished.
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