Continuing our animal-themed amusement posts, here's a video from around five years ago.
The Shark Lady of Quobba at 72 still spends six months of each year at the Quobba Blowholes hunting sharks. Her method is simple – cast a large baited hook into the shallows off the beach, tied to some heavy nylon line, and with the line tied to a rope connected to an old inner-tube sitting over a well-grounded star picket. Ray, her husband, calls it his Shark Shanghai, and likes to test the credulity of newcomers with a description of it in operation. “If Jeannie can’t hold ‘em she lets the line go and when the shark runs out of line the tube stretches out until it pulls the shark up. The shark gets shanghai’d completely out of the water tail first and if we get it right he lands back behind us on the cleaning table.” He swears that some time ago he had a Victorian bloke convinced of this.
At any rate the method works and the Shark lady has so far accounted for 180 sharks. How many of them needed to be lifted onto the cleaning table after capture is another question.
We thought this looked like fun, so with a line borrowed from the ever generous and enthusiastic Jeannie we gathered together some friends and family and headed down to the beach.
The local Mackerel pro fishermen had brought in their catch for the day and were bucketing bloody water from their chiller tanks into the water near the beach. Several sharks were patrolling, looking for the source of the blood. A quick wade into knee-deep water, a swing of the baited tackle, and we had our trap set. A strike! Almost immediately, a large shark took the line and ran directly out toward the deep. The power of the creature was awe-inspiring, taking all of the strength of one man and the assistance of two others to hold. In less than a minute the contest was over, with the hook disappearing from the end of the line. Round one to the shark.
“Grab some more gear!” we cried, and somebody headed off the find a new hook. In the mean time we berlied the water every ten or fifteen minutes with large fish scraps. The shark returned and we got a good look at him, a Bronze Whaler at least 6 or 7 feet in length, and obviously very hungry. One large fish head washed into the shallows and he cruised in, grabbed it, and u-turned with his tail completely out of the water only a few feet from where we stood. It was decided at that point that future line casting would be done from slightly higher up the beach.
A new hook was located and we got the tackle back into the water. Strike! And off he went again furiously pulling the line until we could barely hold it, then ping! and the line went slack. Round two to the beast. He had straightened out two large hooks and kept the bait. The battle was on. Over the next few hours the same shark took, spat out, bent, bit through or broke off everything we could find, every iteration of which was somehow stronger or better prepared than the time before. We traveled to town and purchased new gear. The shark bit it off, leaving us a slack and useless line. Eight times he was hooked, and eight rounds he won.
This might have been really irritating if it weren’t such a thrilling contest. Tomorrow we would get into town and make sure we evened up the odds with some really brutal tackle. In the mean time my Kiwi friend Johnno had his brain whirling around chain, brake cable, rope and an anchor point consisting of an entire Land Cruiser parked on the beach.
Frustrated, we decided to leave two lines set overnight. One was tied to a length of chain which usually did service holding a Land Cruiser on a trailer. Not trusting the strength of knots or swivels after our previous experience, we padlocked this to the hook. The line was 400lb nylon, and this along with some other new gear on a separate 300lb line we tied to Ray and Jeannie’s inner tube on the star picket.
Morning light revealed the line which had been connected to the chain snapped off at the point it connected to the rope and inner tube. 20 or 30 metres of line were gone, the hook, and padlock, and the chain. Round nine to the beast.
Johnno was seriously annoyed that his chain was gone. This was getting personal.
Later in the day, with several spotters posted, I swam a grid search of the bay with a snorkel and mask, but it revealed no sign of the tackle. (Or, to my very great relief, the shark!)
Back to town for more gear. At the tackle shop the consultation was earnest and lengthy. This had to be done right. 600lb line, stainless steel trace made from yacht rigging, swaged at each end, and forget the swivels since they might be the weakest link, line crimped to the trace, advice on every aspect of the operation, the whole gamut. Back to Quobba.
Strike! This time our target made a tactical error, swimming along the beach only a metre or two from the surf, the disturbed water reducing his power. A turn to sea, and brief tug of war, and he turned and swam furiously back along the beach. Then with a final few heaves the majestic fish was brought crashing onto the sand, waves breaking over his glistening back.
This is the moment:
Shark.jpg [ 306.84 KiB | Viewed 516 times ]
But disaster. The hook pulled out of his mouth! “Don’t let him get away!” cried somebody. “Grab his tail!” screamed somebody else. Sure, he’s half in the water every time a wave sweeps in, and he’s fully alive.
Grab his tail indeed. Ah, what the heck, give it a go. A quick grab and he flicked his tail contemptuously. No chance of holding that! “Hit him between the eyes” was the next call, so the hammer was fetched and a couple of attempts were made to whack the beast and stun him, but his wild swings of the head and body and tail ensured that this too was a futile exercise. This was a big fish, almost entirely constructed of muscle servicing a terrifying set of teeth.
Meanwhile the next wave coursed over the shark and it was clear he’d be gone if we didn’t do something. “Grab his tail! He can’t bite you if you hold his tail” yelled Tim, standing safely on the dry sand. But there was nothing else for it, so back we went, this time miraculously managing to maintain a grip on the upper fin of the tail, and we hauled him around and further up the beach to our domain and away from his. A few more exhausting efforts heaving him up the slope and he was defeated. The hammer did its task and the shark was rendered senseless.
And here it is on video:
Victory was a strange mixture of euphoria and sadness as finally saw what a magnificent creature our adversary was, and it really seemed a shame that he was now helpless, dying on the sand. We set to the task of stripping him, Ray and Jeannie advising on the correct process to ensure the flesh was kept free of ammonia and nobody lost their hand during the exercise. The shark measured 7’6” and yielded over 100lbs of beautiful flesh.
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