Dan text me to see if I wanted to pop down to the Wandte this evening after some barbel (he's obsessed, I'm easily lead). We went to the spot he's been feeding, I was first into the action when I briefly hooked into a good fish which managed to find a snag and break me off. Dan was next, a fish that fought well above it's weight, and a new Wandte record (for us)... 3lb 2oz... Top stuff!
While I have been away Dan has been busy, he has been baiting a swim on the Wandte every two days and upped the barbel target to 2lb 8oz, then on Monday night he had a 3lb 1oz barbel and is convinced there are bigger fish there. Unfortunately the photo wasn't great as the flash on his camera failed - after all this effort I didn't want our biggest barbel to go unrecorded, and I didn't want to lose the £10 bet I have on who catches the biggest Wandte barbel.
So despite the cold last night we went fishing. We had a few half-hearted bites, but I think the frost in the morning and the dropping evening temperature had put them off. The session was saved by a solitary mirror carp to Dan, it was the same fish he caught on the 16 September and this time we had scales, it went 2lb 5oz, another really fat river carp... After barbel, at night, at this time of year? We must be mad!
Time to dig out some warm clothes and see if Esox wants to play. The first venue is going to be the Thames, it's a big river and lacks many of the obvious pike-holding features of my home turf River Wye, so tonight we are going to brave the cold again and put out some marker baits.
Speaking of the Wye, the first twenty of the season made an appearance yesterday... I'll be heading there soon.
Well I'm back in London and reflecting on a fantastic trip. I caught a total of eleven sharks, three of which were over six foot, to 6' 11" (above), three big stingray to 75lb, three red drum to 42" and three barracuda to 20lb... Not to mention the other species; black sea bass, small stingray, a trigger fish, blue fish, whiting, a clearnose skate and an octopus (well, nearly).
It wasn't easy fishing and we put a lot more hours in than the blog seems to reflect, but it was more than worth it. It wasn't only the fishing, it was the great locations, the wildlife and the other aspects of catching sharks, landing them, unhooking and releasing them.
So it's a massive thank you to Paulos, Brooke and Sammi for their hospitality. And a massive thanks to Paul's ghillie skills. I don't think I'll read the Shark Blog in the same light again... Now I've experienced it I'll be very envious of every post!
So would I swap? Surprisingly no, I'm sure there is a River Wye 30 pound pike with my name on it, and until we meet my quest continues...
Last day of shark fishing today and myself and Paulos set off for Florida long before the sun came up. We arrived at Little Talbot Island as the park opened just after 7am. The shark rods were quickly cast out and then we waited... And waited... The action started off slowly. A small bluefish was the first to make an appearance, followed shortly after by a bigger bluefish.
A bluefish, getting on for 4lb.
We caught some fingerling mullet with the cast net so I swapped one of the rods over from mullet chunks to a livebait, and soon the rod was knocking round and bits of the livebait were retrieved. Then the rod pulled round hard and I wound down into a good fish, the fish jumped over and over again as it stripped almost all of the line from the multiplier. I walked down the beach to regain enough line to play the fish and after a tough fight I landed a 5' 8" blacktip shark.
5' 8" blacktip. Yay, shark number nine.
We caught a few more bluefish before the mullet chunk rod started getting some interest, I switched from livebait to a mullet chunk and put a short cast into the surf. The first rod hammered over a fish was hooked but spat the hook, it went back out and I was soon connected to another fish, this one jumped on the leader and broke the line. A quick glance over at the second rod and it was bent double and almost pulling out of the spike. I hit the fish and it was a very different fight, it didn't take a great deal of line and it didn't jump - but it didn't want to come to the beach.
After about 15 minutes Paulos saw it in the surf and told me it was a big lemon shark, as it fought we watched it swimming through the clear waves. 10 minutes later it was in the surf and Paul grabbed it... What a fish... Shark number ten - 6' 11" - one inch off seven foot!
6' 11" lemon shark, about 175lb.
We fished on throughout the afternoon, it was mostly quiet, punctuated with brief periods of intense action. We caught a couple more bluefish and lost about 7 or 8 blacktips, they either jumped and spat the hook, jumped on the leader or in two cases broke the hook. As the sun was setting and the kit was being packed up we had one last run, Paulos signaled for me to hit it and I was connected to the last shark of the trip - another blacktip - 4' 1" - what a fantastic day!
4' 1" blacktip as the sun set...
Three sharks today and eleven in total over the 2 weeks, thanks to my ghillie, Paulos.
Quick morning trip to Jekyll Island this morning and a few new species. Using the gear for big sharks I had a small fine tooth shark, followed a small Atlantic sharpnose shark. Next up was a clearnose skate before the lighter red drum rod arched over - a heavy fish pulled away and after a great game of tug-o-war I landed a big stingray, about 70-75lb. Sweet!
A small fine tooth shark.
Clearnose skate... A bit spiky to hold for a photo.
Stingray about 70-75lb.
The stingray didn't want to meet me!
Meanwhile, back in England, Dan has taken the lead in the biggest Wandle barbel competition with this 2lb 8oz fish...
With a few sharks under the belt, we hit the open sea off Savannah today to go after another fish I've always wanted to catch, the barracuda.
The initial marks we tried produced black sea bass, red snapper, a trigger fish and an octopus but after a bit of searching we found a promising spot near a tower 36 miles out to sea. We could see the barracuda attacking the bait fish and we able to sight-fish for them, casting to them and as they went to investigate the bait we began to pull it away inducing a take. Free-lined live bait did the trick.
I've met your freshwater brothers...
The fight was spectacular with deep dives and aerial jumps, one of them managed to get about 10 foot of air - wish I'd filmed it! We ended up with 6 fish to over 20lb. (Some of the photos didn't come out due to rolling boat).
Paulos with the best of the bunch.
Despite the use of a gaff (horrible thing) all the barracuda were returned alive and unharmed to the water - some of the black sea bass weren't so lucky... They are dinner tomorrow.
TC got in on the action.
On the way back we couldn't resist a quick try for a shark, so we followed a shrimp boat with float fished deadbaits - just one run which I hit, but the shark was only on for about a minute before it jumped and broke the leader.
A barracuda in the clear water.
I massive thanks to Captain Chris and Team X-TA-SEA for taking us out for the day - top fishing guys!
Back to Florida today (Monday) to fish a great clear water, shallow beach. We fished the outgoing tide and Paulos was soon into a fish (he fished today, until now he has been the ghillie). He said he thought it was a stingray - and when he got it in the surf what a stingray! It was about 70lb and angry, wielding it's sting around like an mad axe-man.
I wish I'd poured some water over it to wash the sand off.
I hit the next run which ran out into the distance, I gradually bullied him back towards shore before he took all the line back. The trick, I've been told, to fighting sharks it to be completely relentless - 'If you're resting, the shark's resting'. I managed to get him in the surf and Paul dragged him onto the beach. 5' 11" about 125lb.
Nearly six foot of pure muscle.
Next Paul was into a shark and unlike mine this one ran towards the beach and after a relatively short fight I was sent into the surf to drag it to shore. I was standing in 3 feet of water faced with a fairly fresh shark almost as big as me. I managed to grab it's tail and hang on after a few attempts - Paul was back on the beach laughing 'cause he knew how difficult it would be to get hold of.
5' 4" blacktip shark, nice to go wading with!
As the tide went out we had a number of dropped runs. We also connected with a number of sharks, the problem was; in the shallow water they tend to jump - often spitting the hook in the process or landing on the leader and breaking the line... We had 5 more sharks on between us but failed to land any of them... Lot's of arm ache, and lot's of fun, but no shark photos. One last run as we were packing up resulted in a stingray about 8lb to me. What a great day!
And as we left this angry blue crab waved us goodbye.
We ventured south to Florida this morning, we started fishing an estuary under a bridge - an ugly place to fish but there were plenty of bait fish and lots of jumping tarpon - so we gave it a try. Brooke was into a 17" trout before anyone else had cast out (it came home for dinner). She followed shortly by a 32" blacktip shark, but then the tide turned and started going out and the fish disappeared.
4' 6", Brooke was really showing us how it was done!
Next we moved to a large beach and fished over some sandbars, again Brooke was the first to hit a fish and landed a 4' 6" shark on legered live fingerling mullet. Next it was my turn, the rod pulled round and I was into my first blacktip shark, the water on the beach was gin clear and during the fight I could see the shark swimming through the waves - fantastic! It went 5' 7" and weighed about 85lb (top photo).
I cast out another mullet chunk and was soon into my second shark, this time it was 4' 6 1/2". Paulos decided that the only process of shark fishing I hadn't done was unhook one - so with pliers in hand I opened it's mouth and as with all the sharks we've caught it was hooked in the bottom jaw just behind the teeth... Umm, simple! With my new found confidence, and despite being warned it was dangerous, I decided to hold it up for the photo.
Please don't twist and bite me!
Next Brooke was into her third shark of the day, I realised I hadn't landed one for someone else, so when it was beat I waded out into the surf and grabbed it by the tail and pulled it onto the beach - OK, I jumped back a couple of times - but it was looking at me funny! The shark was 4', I did the unhooking - I wonder how my confidence will be if I'm faced with grabbing or unhooking a six or eight footer?
Go on - put your hand in my mouth...
And with that we had to go... Hopefully back to Florida tomorrow...
An early morning trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia. We watched the sun rise over the beach, the dolphins were fishing as were the pelicans and two bald eagles flew overhead. We were only interrupted from nature watching by a solitary run. One of the rods banged over a couple of times before producing a take. A great fight and a 42 1/2" red drum, taken on a fresh mullet head. It was a broad, well conditioned fish over 30lb.
42 1/2" red drum, over 30lb.
We fished on for a couple of hours but nothing else was interested in the bait. We did see a couple of horseshoe crabs mating in the high tide and a shark swam past where we had been wading about - which was a bit worrying - until Paul mentioned there are also alligators there as well. Florida tomorrow...
For scale, the smaller one is about the size of a cycle helmet. Edit: In the evening myself and Tina cycled over to the other side of the island and watched the sun set... The perfect end to the day... Well, no, I'd forgotten to make dinner reservations, then I broke the central locking on the car and then got us horribly lost for a couple of hours...
...In the Garden of Good and Evil. Did the tourist tour of Savannah today, it was fantastic. And that's all I've got to say about that. EXCEPT, I wanted to sit on Forrest Gump's bench but they've moved it to a museum, what a gyp!
On the way back we went to the Bass Pro Shop, floors of wall to wall fishing tackle, I was like a kid in a candy store. It's Paulos' favorite shop and I can see why, we looked at the rods, reels, lures and stuff. I resisted my multiplier reel fetish but decided to stock up on some lures, at $2.99 - $7.99 each, it would be silly not to. I have the odd pike lure at home so I thought I'd stock up on some smaller perch plugs... Anyway, *muhhuh* dollars later I think I've got it covered!
Do you really need the same lures in all the sizes?
After a day off fishing we hit the beach this morning, and it looked perfect, nice waves, light breeze, slight current. This was confirmed when the first cast connected with a stingray about 30lb, unfortunately the hook pulled just as we were about to beach it.
Then the breeze stopped, so did the waves and the current, it was like a lake... Which is great if you are fishing in a lake, you need a bit of rough water for sharks... The action stopped. We caught a few blue fish, whiting and loads of small stingray (photo of one above). It was fun and kept us entertained while we waited for something bigger.
Several hours later one of the shark rods began twitching, we waited for it to run, when it didn't I hit it anyway, one of the smallest lemon sharks Paulos has seen - but it was a shark - and I loved it!
We're gunna need a smaller boat!
A couple of hours passed and one of the rods kicked over, I was into a better fish. The next rod down kicked over and so was Paul. A double hook-up of red drum, both went 41" although Paul's was a stockier fish.
Red Drum, they're like London buses.
We thought the bigger fish had moved in but that was the end of the action for the day. Tomorrow we're all off for a look round Savannah then we'll probably go after some Florida sharks...
Bait Freshly caught bait is best but frozen will do if fresh is unavailable. Mullet or ladyfish chunk are the standard baits (the head is best). Whatever baitfish are present work great - these include black sea bass, barracuda and fingerling mullet.
It was a rubbish tide today, combined with high winds, it was looking like pretty poor conditions for shark fishing... But spurred on by yesterday's success we decided to give it a couple of hours. Alas, only one take which sliced straight through the shock leader, but you've got to give it a go!
The tide was coming in rapidly and we had to retreat, when Paul pulled in his rod he caught a horseshoe crab, it was unharmed and released (video below). Also, a few other beach photos below.
Looks like something from Robot Wars!
A ghost crab.
The exoskeleton of a dead horseshoe crab.
On the way back, after a fantastic seafood dinner, we saw some silver foxes, mini-deer and raccoons. I've wanted to see a wild raccoon since I was a kid, and we watched the one pictured expertly raiding a garbage can for food. The first raccoon I've seen in the wild.
First day of shark fishing in Georgia... Pre-session started with a traditional American lunch, the McDonalds drive-thro, I had the McFatty burger with large fries... Blah... Long story short, I got a shark!! Yay!
My first Red Drum, 40" (about 20lb).
We decided to have a couple of hours at one of Paulos' favorite shark spots. Bait was fresh mullet caught with a casting net. Paulos soon put me in the action as one of the rods bent over and I connected to the red drum above, what a cracking fight, and I think the smile on my face says it all.
Next the second rod bent over and I caught a stingray. It was a very different fight, apparently you have to keep them moving as once they stop they bury themselves in the sand.
I didn't like the spike on it's tail whipping around!
We were now well over our intended two hours but the baits went back out while I *helped* Paul catch some mullet for bait (I'm not a great casting net thrower!). The second rod bent round again and soon I was connected to another fish. Paul said it was probably a big stingray but once it was in the surf he told me it was a big lemon shark, the smile on my face nearly hit my ears! It was 6' 7 1/2" (about 150lb) photo at the top.
1 hour 20 minutes of back breaking fight... 6' 4"
The rods went out one more time to see if there were any other sharks about, and while I was still trying to recover from the first fight the rod went over again. It was the hardest fight of my life, by a long way, it took well over an hour before I got the fish within Paul's reach. She was 6' 4" - two six footers in one day. Top work and thanks to my ghillie Paulos... I quite like this shark fishing..!