Shark Fishing Gone Bad.
By Dink Murphey
The day we had set for our shark fishing adventure with the kids was Thursday. It was just Wednesday but the water looked nice and there was no June grass in site to make a mess of the line. June grass ruined our shark fishing the previous year. Kevin suggested we go for it that evening. I agreed.
The gear was all prepared well in advance. A 6 foot boat rod, a Penn Senator 6/0 wide, 100 lb test line, home made shark rig comprised of weed-eater line, steel leader, 20/0 circle hook and a heavy spider weight. We had a nice big blue fish from our outing the previous day...an ideal shark bait. We would be practicing "catch and release" so other gear ready in the bucket included rope to lasso the tail and pull to shallow water, bolt cutters to cut the hook quickly, gloves, camera and a flashlight.
My kayak was also ready to be paddled out to the 2nd sand bar for the bait drop, the major feeding grounds of the bull sharks and other sharks that frequent the emerald coast.
We all met on the beach at 6pm and started to prepare the bait. While preparing the bluefish Kevin suggested it might be a little too rough still and that maybe we should wait until tomorrow as originally planned. The adrenaline was already pumping at that point so I continued to prepare the bait and said "let's go for it". If we lived on the coast it would be different, but we had limited time on vacation and the kids were excited, and the adrenaline continued. We were making a very poor decision.
Working a little too fast on the bait a cut my thumb on the circle hook's razor sharp tip. Not a small cut, a large gushing cut that could have used 3 stitches. One of the kids fetched some electrical tape back at the house and I gave my thumb a creative and tight wrap to hold long enough to make the paddle and drop the bluefish and then finished the bait...running the hook through the mouth, out the gill then punching into the gut and back out. I quickly strapped on three zip-ties to keep the hook positioned properly for an accurate jab into the jawbone of an unsuspecting bull. I finished the bluefish off with some nice cuts, slashes and pokes to make for a a nice bloody bait. Sharks after all love blood.
Kevin took the rod and set the drag open, keeping his thumb on the spool to prevent backlash. I zipped up my life jacket, leashed my paddle to the kayak and straddled it quickly for a launch just after a wave crashed down. Like all the days before on this trip, the surf was tough. I knew I could make the early breakers, but the question would be how much water would the yak take on. Excessive water in the hull was not good for the breakers at the 2nd bar...or the paddle back to shore. A "turtling" was in the cards, but I was praying it would be on the inbound paddle back to shore.
I continued to make it over (and through) the waves, but the ability to regain speed became much more difficult with every breaker. As I continued to pant and paddle to the drop point it suddenly dawned on me that I did not attach the heavy spider weight to the rig before launching. The spider weight is critical as it holds the bait on the 2nd sand bar and prevents it from drifting down current or worse, back to shore. There was no way in the world I could make it back and then do a second paddle. I would just have to make the drop and hope for the best with the fat, fresh and bloody bluefish we were so excited to have on hand.
I was just about there but I needed to clear one more big wave. I needed a little more time in the swell between breakers. Time to allow me to detach the bait from the snap-hook in the rear of the kayak. A fairly simple task but not one you want to do with a big wave on you. The next wave would come...but I wouldn't clear it. It happened so fast. Maybe I was not quite straight enough on the bow. Maybe I just didn't have enough speed. Maybe I just had too much water in the hull at that point. Whatever it was it was irrelevant now, because I was in the water...and my kayak was upside down. As I struggled to right the kayak some immediate concerns flashed through my mind. Find the bait and detach it from the snap-bolt ASAP. Our nice fresh, bloody bluefish was dangling in the water somewhere below the yak. I don't recall really every having looked for the bait, as my mind was quickly focused on trying to right the kayak and climb back in. Visions of sharks honing in on the new bait in the water was strong. I'm not sure how much longer I spent unsuccessfully trying to right the kayak...and before I knew it my mind was made up. Leave the kayak. Leave the kayak with the bloody bait attached to it below the surface. Leave now. So I did.
As I began backstroking back to shore I looked over my shoulder to see just how far and hard my swim would be. It didn't look good...and the thought of it being prime time feeding hour for sharks made it even worse. Even with a life jacket on I know the waves and currents could do strange things in these waters...especially that far out. I continued to backstroke long and hard. When I was what seemed half way home I remembered my injured thumb. The big cut. The big bloody cut. The big bloody cut that was leaving a tasty trail in it's wake. My right arm that housed my bloody thumb shot up in the air a la Arnold Horshack as I switched to a one-armed back stroke. Man, 2 arms are certainly better than one when you need it.
The arrival in shallow water was non eventful as a suddenly realized I was still back stroking in 4 feet of water. As my feet scraped the sandy bottom I did my best to raise my late Elvis frame from the water. Before I could absorb the questions from the kids and worried looks from my buddies on shore I began to hear the voice of my wife. "Honey, I think it's too rough...maybe you shouldn't shark fish this evening."
She has been so right...on oh so many occasions. She was right again. I only wish I had listened. God is good. Yes, even in the vacuum of our own stupidity, God is good.