Smart Sharks

18 Aug

In honor of The Mariner's Human Week, I too have a shark story.

Sailing solo along Costa Rica's Pacific coast, I was doing my best to put some meat on the table. I'd bought some new lures and trolled with rod and reel as I motored through the calms.

Unfortunately, I kept hooking Jack Cravelle. As I learned my first time cruising Mexico years ago, the Jack Cravelle is a great fighter and a game fish, but pretty much inedible. We tried to eat one once and it was like fish flavored cat food, brown and bloody. Since then I’ve been on the catch and release program with the hapless Jack Cravelle.

The reel exploded, I stopped the boat, and I spent a good half hour fighting a fish. When I got it to the surface I saw it was another Jack Cravelle, and such a giant one that I wouldn’t be able to pull it up on deck by the leader to dislodge the hook. The other option was to gaff the fish, but that sort of defeats the whole catch and release thing.

While I was wondering how to save my poor Jack Cravelle, I saw some movement beneath him. The water was clear and I wore polarized sunglasses. I soon made out three sharks, species unknown, who made very quick and surgical work of the Jack Cravelle.

They made a coordinated attack of rapid strikes, leaving almost nothing of the fish, and scarcely a drop of blood in the water. The whole operation took about three seconds, and this fish weighed about thirty pounds. I always think of sharks getting frenzied and going for anything they can sink their teeth into, but these sharks bit in rapid succession to avoid biting each other, and seemed to get in about two strikes each before the fish was gone.

I was thinking, oh great, now I’m going to have a big shark on my line to contend with. Nope, the sharks avoided the hook with such precision that I was left with just the poor fish’s mouth on the hook.

I had a similar experience in Chagos when I disposed of some fish carcasses and initiated a feeding frenzy. I strapped a swim fin to a tuna corpse, thinking a swim fin with a shark bite out of it would be a fun memento. The sharks consumed the tuna in its entirety, and never even scratched the fin.

Nice to know that if you're eaten by a shark it'll leave your watch.


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