Although it seems that almost every time I pick up a fishing rod these days it is for professional purposes, I have to say it’s a very long way from all bad. After catching some big trout last week, my latest quest was to catch something considerably larger and possibly even more beautiful.
For a long time I’d admired the blue sharks caught by Andrew Alsop out from Milford Haven on his boat White Water III, so when Tight Lines’ guest Dave Lewis took on the mantle of Jimmy Saville and said he could fix it, all I needed telling was when!
Dave had several days booked with Andrew, and just as well because he is all but sold out a year in advance - although if you fancy a go yourself, there is always a chance of a cancellation or midweek slot if you’re lucky.
Our day coincided with a window in the weather that let us motor out into St George’s Channel from Milford Haven Marine in total comfort.
I was very interested in seeing how Andrew did it, because I have fished with some of the great Montauk, NY, skippers, including Al Cortez, who holds the World blue shark record at 528lb from his boat Half Back; the legendary Joe McBride on My Mate, and Jack Passie on Windy. They have it sussed and make some awesome catches using clever techniques. Shark fishing is more than just going out a long way and hoping.
Talking to Andrew on the voyage out, he had never fished with any of these people but has developed his own form of the art. Once he set the boat up on the drift, it was plain to see his way wasŠ well, brilliant! It incorporated variations on many of the methods adopted by the Montauk captains, and remember shark fishing in the US began there, thanks to the late Capt Frank Mundas.
Within minutes of the first bait going in the water the fulmars that had appeared from nowhere to pick tasty floating morsels from our chum rose into the air as one, scared off the water by something nasty beneath them.
Seconds later a reel was screaming and it was game on with our first shark of the day.
The fish had taken the ‘pitch bait’ fished just eight metres or so behind the boat at a depth of four or five metres on a 30lb set-up. It roared off a long way, maybe 80m to 90m of line melted from the spool and we were all convinced it was a porbeagle.
When the runs just kept coming, albeit gradually reducing in length, there was no doubt it was a porgie - until it came alongside the boat when, amazingly, it looked very blue indeed!
There is one main difference in the way Andrew runs things to most other skippers - any shark hooked from his boat doesn’t count until it comes on board! He is the shark equivalent of Crocodile Dundee as he wrestles, with enormous gentleness it has to be emphasised, the fish on board.
Once there the hook is dealt with, the fish is examined, measured (if required for angler’s vanity or potential ‘special’ size), photographed and returned. I had that fish taped at 84ins long by 34ins girth, giving an estimated weight of 135.83lb.
Dave and I finished the day with six blues, a haul Andrew described as below average, although we could have stayed longer. In the previous five trips he’d boated 63, so we spoiled his average. Four of our fish were ‘ton-plus’ merchants, with the final fish of the day somewhat larger than the first, probably in the 150lb-160lb category.
It was yet another in an increasing list of great days!