O.k., so we’re not brothers but myself and Chuckaroo decided to give the sharks another go as there seemed to be a break in the weather in mid-week so with time booked off work and accommodation sorted we met at Killybegs and set off. Again it took a while to gather up some mackerel for bait and rubby-dubby, the mackerel we did get being mostly mini-macks with barely a handful big enough for hook bait. A few scad added to the bulk so with the bare minimum, if even that, we steamed out at 20mph to where we had been recommended to try. The theoretical north wind combined with the flood tide should have given us a nice drift across the tide but the wind died away and the boat barely moved, I had to really zoom in on the plotter to see any change of position at all. We were able to bottom fish in 240 ft with only 4/5oz leads so slow was the drift and this produced lots of small whiting to the feathers, I wonder do the blues feed on them? Having previously been blown out several times it was looking like we would be beaten by the other extreme of being practically becalmed. We stuck with it for most of the afternoon and early evening and with an hour of daylight left we headed inshore to try a few drifts over the sand in shallower water. On the way, we were joined by a pod of dolphins which treated us to a display of leaps and bow-riding. This was a new spot to try and in less than an hour we had a spotty ray each and a dab and doggy added to the catch before it was time to head in. Another sharking wipeout.
Next morning was dull and wet but we set off a bit earlier, (no 3 hour drives this time). Same problem finding bait, first fish was a good sized launce before eventually we started getting tiny mackerel. At least they were coming thick and fast and as they say in Scotland, “many’s a mickerel mak’s a mackerel”, or something like that. One lucky drop produced a handful of hookbait sized mackerel so off we went, this time a bit further out into the bay. There was a nice westerly breeze which would keep us moving along and so long as the windier weather forecast for later didn’t come too soon, we should be fine. Chuckaroo chopped fish and I tramped them into oblivion along with the bran and oil and it was with optimism that we filled the onion bag and tied it to the cleat. Hooks baited and over the side, we fished one rod each, mine at about 20ft deep and Chuckaroo’s at about 30ft and further out from the boat. Now we waited and fished lighter rods on the bottom to fill time and top up the fish supply. Again, plenty of small whiting though I did get one half decent one on a whole mini-mack. A small gurnard also attacked the feathers along with a couple of small mackerel but reeling up small fish from 240 ft becomes tiresome so the rods were stowed in the rocket launcher on the stern. Sadly the wind seemed to die away and again the boat was barely moving. After 3-4 hours, we had barely moved a mile if that and I think doubts were setting in, were we covering enough ground, was the rubby-dubby working properly, was there enough particles coming out of the bag, were the baits at the right depth etc. At one point I saw something conical and dark sticking out of the water some distance off but too far to see clearly though I was sure it wasn’t a bird, a seal possibly but I didn’t think so. A short while later, Chuckaroo’s reel gave a few clicks for no apparent reason, it was too calm for a wave or swell to have caused it. His float was perfectly still in the water so we paid no more attention until a short while later it started moving across the surface. Jaws revisited. Chuckaroo tightened into the fish as I reeled in my shark rod and the other light rod and stowed them in the rocket launcher, little did we realise the fun this would generate! Shark on, and then apparently off again but it was heading straight for the boat. Chuckaroo reeled like crazy to take up the slack and the rod took on a pleasing bend as the weight of the fish took effect. This fish was going to fight dirty! It dived under the boat and then caught the line around the rubby-dubby bag. We got that sorted and stowed the bag on board out of the way only for it take the line around the engine. Fortunately it was the 200lb rubbing trace that bore the brunt of this manoeuvre, not the 35lb mainline. Once the line was freed from the engine, I raised the leg out of the water to prevent a repeat. The shark then headed for the front of the boat so Chuckaroo had to get the tip of his rod above the 3 rods standing upright in the stern, then over the top of the radio aerial and around the bows while I did my best to get out of the way. A few runs vertically down and the shark was starting to tire so we thought it was time to consider getting it aboard. With the trace swivel at the rod eye, I grabbed the trace and pulled the shark towards the boat, it wasn’t too happy and started to thrash around before making a run. A loop of the mono trace caught around my finger tip but I managed to twist my finger free before it hurt, (too much anyway). I won’t make that mistake again. Anyhow, the shark was alongside again and I grabbed a pectoral and started hauling, I don’t know what Chuckaroo was holding, perhaps his breath, but whatever, the shark was aboard. Chuckaroo was astride it to stop it thrashing around, a quick bit of work with the pliers and it was photo time. I washed it down with the magic sponge to clean it up a bit while Chuckaroo lifted it in his arms (sleeves rolled up at this point, he won’t make that mistake again!). We also measured the nose to fork length as we had no means of weighing it, back in the water and hold it for a while until it regained its composure before it swam off. Magnificent! At this point I realised that the dark conical thing I had seen earlier had been a shark dorsal fin. Three trips amounting to 4 days fishing and at last success had come. After savouring the moment it was time to get the dubby bag back in the water in the hope that the slick wasn’t interrupted for too long. The next run would be mine regardless of whose rod it came to, otherwise Chuckaroo would have been facing a long walk home starting from the middle of Donegal Bay, though at this moment in time I think he probably felt like he could have walked on water. As it happened, the next run came to his rod, he can now justifiably refer to this as his “shark rod”. I had rebaited the rod and was paying out the line, a very slow process given the calm conditions and the float was barely 20ft from the boat when I saw a shark swim past the boat about 15ft down. A few moments later there was a splash at the float as a shark took a snap at it, I’ve heard of getting caught hook, line and sinker but hook, line and float? Then the shark swam past the boat again just under the surface and Chuckaroo spotted that it had the trace trailing out of its mouth. “You’ve got him”. So while he reeled in the other rod, I tightened into the shark and set the hook. Unlike Chuckaroo’s fish which was a streetfighter, this one was Marquis of Queensbury rules, it tore off away from the boat stripping line and diving deep repeatedly. I have had a few decent tope over the years but this was something special, the power of these fish! I don’t know how long it took but eventually the fish came alongside. In the meantime Chuckaroo had done a great job clearing the decks, (we only thought we were ready for his fish). We got the fish in quickly and relatively easily; if nothing else, we’re fast learners. A few photos and a quick forklength measure and back into the water. We had both got our first blue shark and after a lot of waiting and frustration, two sharks come to the boat in an hour, just like buses. After all the doubts, we must have done something right. At this point I must acknowledge some tips and advice I received; JimC’s articles on sharking in Topfisher, Enda O’Callaghan from Killybegs and Rushnaldo from the site. That said, just call me Quint!
We settled for that and headed inshore for a “wind down” for the last hour or so. We tried the same mark as yesterday again and in a short time we had a few more spotted rays and a dogfish. Chuckaroo thought he was into a good fish but it was a spotty coming in backwards, still a nice fish. The forecast stiffening wind and rain suddenly arrived and with the sea getting a nasty chop, we headed back to port for a celebratory drink. I had a sparkling water and lime while Chuckaroo had a much more butch drink, a pint of coke. His forearms were on fire now from the sharkskin exfoliation, he may be 6ft 12” but he’s quite a delicate wee thing really!
By the way, the sharks measured 64” and 66” nose to fork, combined with the pics, any estimates of weights would be very welcome.
I’ve just remembered what happened to Quint, on second thoughts just call me johnwest.
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