Monday, August 31, 2015

Ocracoke Shark Attack Revenge

Our last night on Ocracoke Island, we arrived at the beach at dusk, just as the surf reached high tide. Matt dug the pit where our black Lab, Sadie, began the digging, and we got a cooking fire going as the full moon rose just above the horizon out over the sea.

About two months ago, right here in front of the life guard stand where we cast, a man got attacked by a shark, bitten severely in multiple places. Ocracoke made the news worldwide.

Matt's had a tough time with sharks. At age six, he hooked one right here on this beach just after dark. He barely got hold of his rod before it would have got ripped out to sea, jammed the butt into the sand, and just held on with both arms as the fish raced towards Spain.

"You better take it."

So I took hold and let the fish keep running, no other choice. It stopped with about 10 or 20 yards of 16-pound test left on the spool. I managed to pump the fish back behind the breakers, when it turned and headed up the beach. Twenty minutes and 200 yards distant from my wife, son, our stuff, their flashlight dead, and mine about to completely die, Matt started screaming for me. So I put thumb pressure on the spool and let the line break, ran back. He thought the shark pulled me in, since he could no longer see my flashlight. Big shark.

Two years later, he caught a big bonnethead from a Big Pine Key bridge at night. I estimated 25 pounds and together we broke the fish off, no way to haul it up. I thought nice fish, but surely they get much bigger. First thing Matt did when we got to the cottage, he looked up bonnetheads in his Florida fishing guidebook. What do you know? World record was 23 pounds and some ounces from before 2007.

Ever since these incidents, he's been hot on sharks. Every time on the Banks, we've tried, but have had weather problems.

We had some chunky pinfish for bait. I ripped open the bellies and sliced them up so blood would get in the brine. Then I took 10/0 stainless steel hooks on 86-pound test Toothproof wire, tied off by haywire twists, weighted by five-ounce pyramid sinkers on sliding sleeves, and poked and twisted the sacrifices in tight under the spinal columns. The surf had calmed way down since our debacle at the pier earlier in the day. Full moon shed a lot of light, but the night felt real good. I thought we might catch a shark right where the old man in the news got attacked not long before and create a viral web post. So I imagined with pleasure, anyway.

Well, with two days of an incessant 20-knot northeast blow, that current pushing southward hadn't abated at all, despite the relative relief of the waves. The heavy lead rolled like sandstone down a 70 percent grade, and though we managed to keep bait in the water, it was a little like drifting salmon eggs for trout.

Matt had a great idea. "Dad, why don't you drive back to the house and get those anchor sinkers?" That would have worked. But this was our last night and we hadn't begun packing. We got two hours on the beach, roasting hot dogs and smors. And the three of us laughed at the confrontations between Sadie and ghost crabs as big as rats in the lantern light.

Matt will have a chance yet. And when we head to the Jersey shore for sharks next summer, perhaps, I won't forget the anchor sinkers, just in case.

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