The first time I caught a Yellow fin Tuna, it looked and acted like it was made of metal...steel to be exact!. A wind up rocket ship with scales so small and tight that the creature appeared robotically metallic. Even after being gaffed and doing the typical tuna drum on the deck, its blank stare into no where gave it the aura that its wind -up spring had run out and so did its movement. Tuna die quickly when landed......sharks, on the other hand defy death...usually successfully! They have leather skin, so abrasive that I have seen it shred 80 lb test line when they roll up on it. Their eyes do not stare in to space...THEY STARE AT YOU! Those black orbs, filled with purpose, track down their quarry and with unmatched power and speed in combination, fulfill their intentions.....which is the demise of their prey. They swagger when they are in a fight. They fan back and forth , right next to the boat and pose the question to the angler.."Now that I have agreed to be towed this close to your boat, what do you intend to do now???" The action that follows is why many boats do not target sharks. The battle at boat side can destroy your gear and the person intending to free the shark from the wire tether that connects him ...to you. I have been on many shark trips.....I have cut the wire, and freed many sharks. I was always the best at it. I seemed to have a relationship with these monsters. We would share stares. I would emit the understanding that I would free them.............if they wanted to be free! I used to wonder who really caught who when these 10 foot behemoths look up at you and say...I am here...now what are you going to do??
My first yellowfin tuna
I am right hand dominant. My left hand, as with most people, is more erratic and in accurate. For those reasons, anything that requires a sure hand with pin point accuracy , I do with my right hand. When I mate shark trips....I leader the shark in with my left hand and free the hook or cut the wire with my right hand.....my dominant one....the one that goes within inches of rows of razors.
The battle with a shark can vary from one of grueling, back breaking agony, to being aggravated that it wont fight very hard. Why could that be? My theory is that because of the fact that they have no natural predators, after yanking on the line for a few minutes, they decide to go up and see why something is deterring their swimming patterns. That something is you!. So instead of pulling to get away they decide to stay around and see if they can gain food from this endeavor...not just their freedom!!! Rarely do we consider ourselves prey to another animal. Glance over the side of the boat into the eyes of a ten foot shark and you can sense the pitiful helpless ness we would have if chosen as dinner by the shark. Even as I type out these memories I can feel my heart race because I truly believe I am bonded to Gods Gladiators..I was the mate on the boats....the man of freedom....the separator...the communicator...the one who got the closest....! After cutting some sharks free, they do no immediately plunge into the depths...they back up and stare back at me. They know, and I know, just why that occurs!
A trip with Mako intentions seemed to evolve into non-stop wrestling with very big blue sharks. I was positive we could raise a mako with a troll but the Captain was not convinced and he insisted that we anchor up for the night and fish from a dead boat. Its great for setting a great chum line and sense we were video taping this endeavor, he felt that non stop action was better than hours of footage, waiting! Non- stop action it was...for hours into the night. Two hundred and fifty pound blue sharks..one after another. I leadered all of them in....cut or pulled the hook on each one and felt assured that they survived the tug of war.
When I leader in a big shark, I think about how the shark behaved during the fight. Did he tire himself out? Did he give in and come to the boat for a look? Does he seem mad or complacent? Is he thrashing or calm? Cutting a leader inches from a sharks mouth is not suggested during the thrashing period. I do not muscle the beast. I move with it. I stare at it. I demand its eye contact. I try to look into its soul and send the message of freedom to him. I try to compromise and not dominate in typical human fashion. Traditionally the leadering process is calm. The apparent willingness of the shark , allowing me to reach within inches of it, has always impressed my fellow anglers.
Most of the boats anglers had gone to bed and we were about to close up shop when one of the patrons hooked into a nice big boy and because his luck had been spotty, I was more than willing to ride this one out with him, even though my droopy eyes evidenced my exhaustion. Son of a gun, Fran had that rover by the boat in no time flat. As mentioned, I am very wary of that maneuver. A fresh , green, shark boat side, is a problem.
Don't fish seem to have the uncanny knack to wrap around the anchor rope??? This shark was l likely to do that as it insisted on staying up at the front , where the anchor rope was. I told Fran to lean on him and bring him back to us. He tried. The fish was still fresh.....and not moving. I leaned over the side and put additional pressure on the line in hopes of spinning the beast around.....It worked. I saw his face come into view as he came toward us and for some reason, I was leadering him in with my right hand.....my pliers hand! Must have been the convenience from that side of the boat and or exaction, but none the less I reached around my back and pulled out the pliers from my sheath with the my left hand/my non- dominant hand....my awkward hand....the WRONG HAND!
The sharks nose had passed by and began to pass the end of the boat I should have let it go and tire itself out....I knew that....I wish I always did what I know is right.....but I don't! I tried to pull it back with my right hand . That pulled the sharks head up and its tail down, which can allow it great leverage. In sort of a hap hazard way I positioned myself to cut the wire with my left hand. While steadying the big blue shark with my right hand I eased the pliers toward the cut and with a Doberman gaze and tuna speed, the beast propelled itself upward and ATE THE PLIERS OUT OF MY CLUMSY LEFT HAND!
The shock dampened any pain. I pulled my hand back as fast as I could and of course feared for the absolute worst. A quick glance showed me a palm of blood so I gabbed the first rag I found and applied as much pressure as I could while bolting into the cabin while wondering what it will be like be lifted by a life star helicopter. Safety is paramount when out in the deep blue sea. I did not practice that credo and as the rag turned crimson, I prepared myself to look at gore of the bite.
Maybe it was the contact with the metal pliers...maybe I did not taste good.....maybe it was an act of bonding....a statement of what could happen ..... total dismemberment, and what really happened which was a jagged , half moon , gash from one side of my thumb into my palm. Why he did not take the thumb with him I do not know. The mess could have used stitches, but I quickly butterflied the gashes and all seemed fine. I am very very very fortunate that I did not lose my hand or bleed to death from a more severe injury. For that I was grateful.
When I realized that all would turn out ok , I returned to the anxious, hopeful faces that awaited me on the deck. God Dam Mike.........are you ok??? Now that I was safe the cocky striper mike came back....Yeah I am ok......wanna see something? Look at this bite and how quickly he released me. All the staring faces grimaced and I proceeded as follows. You know guys...I consider myself blessed. I was bitten by a shark and did not suffer the devastation that could have occurred. As a result, I am never going to wash these gashes out....I am assuming that the fiery saliva of the beast is now in my system....not alot of shark...but definitely a little shark. I want the glory of him to heal inside of me. I want to be part shark!!!!! They looked at me and Fran mumbled...your crazy.
I never washed it out.....I never applied medicine....I never applied a bandage...and. I never got rid of the scars he left behind. In my system flows the dank saliva of one of the worlds great beasts. Odd as it may seem, many people have often said to me ....'You have the deepest and blackest pupils I have ever seen, and the haunting gaze to match".......Without going into the story for them , I simply say........I know, sort of like shark eyes!!! I wonder , if the next shark I see, will know it is me.......and will in fact know I AM THEM!. Safe Sterile Settings Stifle Life's Zest.......DO STUFF ......FEEL YOUR LIFE.