Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Shark Fishing with a Black Kite

On Saturday I went shark fishing in the Atlantic Ocean (off Norfolk, Virginia) with some friends.

Woke up at 4AM in a $60-per-night Days Inn which was located between a trailer park and a housing project, and conveniently for me, across the street from a decent raw bar.

I was reminded again why my first choice of water vessel is a sailboat, not one powered by a 225 horsepower outboard engine. I love to fish --- would never turn down an invite to go --- but motoring at 22 knots in six to eight foot seas is a jaw-rattling multiple crash session for hours on end; as the boat comes off each wave, the hull pounds onto the trough of the next wave and feels like falling six feet onto hard pavement inside a fiberglass box. I had to concentrate on bending my knees with each slam to absorb the shock --- kind of like skiing mogul fields. The ride is MUCH smoother on a sailboat traveling in lumpy water (my hull speed is a max of 7 knots).

But damn, it was fun. There's nothing like warm wind and salt spray coming at your face while hunting the tigers of the sea.

Fishingwise, we didn't do so great. We landed the above bull shark but it was too small and we had to throw it back. Also had to deal with hauling in and unhooking half a dozen pesky skates --- like cranking in rugs up through 60 feet of ocean water.

The skipper of our boat was interesting; he spent seven months working for the US Navy patrolling the Euphrates River in Iraq. We didn't ask him about tramatizing war experiences but he did tell us about the time he was motoring at 40 knots in a 40-foot patrol boat and slammed into a sandbar covered by an inch of water. That experience alone gave him more injuries than anything else while at war.

He had a unique method of fishing for sharks that I'd never seen. He connects a black kite to the end of one of the rods and flies it out over the water 50 yards away until it hovers 30 feet over the water. Then, he connects a sliding clip to the kite line and runs another fishing line (connected to a separate rod) through it with a live bait fish on the end. This system puts the bait fish dangling far from the boat but swimming just below the surface.

Here's the skipper letting out the kite. He's still feeding the line out but when all was done, it was over 50 yards away.

Here's one of the many skates we caught. They were difficult to unhook because they often swallowed the massive metal hook. For one of them, we had to do some serious surgery to get the hook back.

We would run six rods at a time while fishing for the sharks.

We also used bluefish heads as bait. Remember, big bait equals big fish.

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