Shark Fishing in Wales
I was recently asked to join a good customer on a boat trip for shark off the West Wales coast. So 4am in the morning we set off for Neyland and joined Skipper Nick on Celtic Wildcat. Nick was to ferry us out to the Celtic Deeps, a mark 35 miles out in the Irish sea, to fish for shark in 300 foot of water. This was a type of fishing I had never done before. Luckily for me I was with Andrew Samuels, a very experienced big game fisherman who had caught shark all over the world. Andrew was kind enough to supply the gear and advice on how to land these large predators. Tackle used was 30-50lb class stand up boat rods coupled with 6/0 size lever drag multipliers. I was looking forward to the sport so chose the Abu Garcia Suveran 30-50lb downtider coupled with a Shimano TLD20 Leverdrag multiplier loaded with Berkley XTS red 30lb monofilament.
Weather conditions were ideal, with a slight South Easterly wind and little swell . After a 2 1/2 hour steam to the mark which involved a lot of Dolphin spotting & bird watching we eventually reached the mark. A mesh bag was filled with cut up fish such as mackerel, pouting and trout and hung over the side of the boat, creating a slick which drifted away from the boat, hopefully luring sharks to the boat that would pick up the scent with their incredible sense of smell. Everybody clipped on their end tackle which consisted of a 15ft rubbing trace of either 400lb monofilament or wire, normally 49 strand attached to a 4ft wire trace and a 12/0 circle hook with its barb cut off . Circle hooks are now the preferred choice of the shark angler, as they are easily removed because of their tendency to always catch the fish in the side of the sharks mouth. A balloon is attached on a sliding float fitting , normally a wide bored zip slider above the rubbing trace allowing the angler to adjust the depth at which the bait is presented. The hook is then inserted behind the head of the baitfish, usually a mackerel and thrown over the side, leaving it to drift away in the current. There was 8 anglers on board, so 8 rods in the water all with baits at varying depths so we could find what depth the fish were feeding at. Bites were a bit slow to start with but after an hour the ratchet on the rod next to mine started to slowly click, then whizz as the bait was picked up by a shark which tore down tide away from us at lightening quick speed. The fish quickly stripped 30 yards of line off the reel before Butch picked up the rod and engaged the drag to set the hook. There followed a 15 minute tussell where Butch gained line on the reel, only for the fish to go on another run. Finally the fish came to the side of the boat where it was steered to the stern and an open door which allowed Nick to pull the shark aboard and remove the hook.
The first shark on board was a Blue of about 40lb. Everyone congratulated Butch on being the first to boat a fish, also hoping that they were next. Over the next 4 hours every rod on the boat landed a shark, all Blues, except me and Andrew. By 3 o'clock I still hadn't had anything and was beginning to think it wasn't going to be my day. But then as silence descended on the boat my reel screamed as the ratchet went. Something had picked up my bait and torn downtide, stripping 40 yards off my reel. I slowly engaged the leverdrag and lifted the rod into the fish. It seemed well hooked as the pressure was relentless. I can safely say that I have never had anything put a bend into a rod like that. The tip was at right angles and the reel feeding line out, even though the drag was set . Eventually I managed to stop the fish. and slowly started to gain line. pumping and winding . The weight on the line made my arms and my back ache. All I could think was that I hoped the knot I had just tied above the rubbing trace would hold. To lose a fish because of that would have left me distraught. Eventually after a short fight, that seemed to me like hours we could see far below a bar of white , as the shark turned and twisted in its attempt to escape. The shark was brought to the surface and steered to the stern of the boat where Nick pulled the shark onto the deck. I'd broken my Blue Shark duck. The shark was unhooked and handed to me for a short photo session , then released over the side , to swim off , hopefully to live and fight another day. The fish was estimated to weigh 45-50lb, so I was very pleased. Biggest on the day was estimated to be 120lb and we boated around 30 fish between us, including 4 for myself. With the day almost over, and the skipper mindful of the failing light time was called & all gear was reeled in. The long journey home was shortened by another display of dolphins dancing in & out of the Wildcats wake. A fantastic day and one I will never forget. A big thankyou goes out to Nick the skipper of the Celtic Wildcat for his enthusiasm, expert knowledge, patience & help. Also thankyou to Andrew Samuels for all his help, the kit and the driving to & from the venue.