Solo Sharker - Spencer Wright
Getting into Sharking on your own boat can be a massive buzz. The thing is on the Isle of Wight waters, where I’m based can be anything but easy. You can, and people do fish a whole season, without banking a single fish, and if you do manage to hook one, that fish can be huge!
Speaking to seasoned Shark skippers, they all said one thing to me at the beginning of my sharking journey - don’t be tempted to go out alone! It had been over 25 years, way back when I was just a teenager, that id last fished for Sharks, so it was going to be a big step up, to dedicate myself to fish for them alone, so in my mind, I was set, and I was up for it, 110%!
Now, I had put an awful lot of money into my boat and as selfish as it may sound, I didn’t want anyone else to reap the benefits of my effort, so going against the grain, I ignored the advice, and went it alone; I occasionally took the odd close mate out, but for the main part it was just me and my boat, which isn’t the safest thing to do without doubt and a hugely sketchy thing to undertake, so I will run you through my findings and thoughts on Sharking alone, and especially the safety aspect of it.
Firstly, I am fortunate enough to have a relatively large boat. A Mitchell 31, which was a big part of my plan, that I wanted to have a safe platform in which I fish from, especially in IOW area, which can be less than forgiving at the best of times!
One of the major obstacles whilst sharking is what to do if you are lucky enough to hook a fish and that is using the engine to assist in the fight. Now, fishing alone in a large boat is something of a hindrance, and for me, I learnt that I could walk up and around the bow of my boat, unaided which is of huge benefit to me, where other boats that may be an impossible task.
I have had a few times cases in which I have had to follow a fish, when it has gone off on an extreme run, and taken lots of line, so in them cases, I have has to put the rod in the holder, clip on a lanyard and start the engine.
Once underway I have had a few instances where I have had to try and steer the boat whilst attached to a fish with the rod tip stuck out the doorway, which isn’t a great position to be in, I can assure you!
On smaller boats people may be able to steer and drive the boat unaided. I have looked into getting a separate control fitted on the stern which would be a game changer for me, but the cost is such, that I cannot justify it, so just continue to fish, as I have, in relative safety.
Another item to bare in mind is that I don’t harness myself in. I use only a butt-pad in my fight. I am conscious of being strapped in and being alone on a boat, and knowing the strengths some of these fish can possess, it can be a worry, so purposely don’t strap in for that reason - It only takes one mistake, and you could easily go over the side, and the Shark would no doubt win in a hold-your-breathe contest, so not worth the risk in my eyes.
There are a few main factors which can cause you major headaches, and one of them which I certainly learnt my lessons from, is how many rods to use on the boat. I use two rods and wouldn’t advocate using more than that, under any circumstances. This is to reduce the possibility of tangles.
Another big lesson that I learnt the hard way is having minimal amount of gear on the deck. I keep everything I don’t need in the cabin. The deck is kept clear, so once a fish does bite, you are in no danger of having an obstacle to hinder you, or to trip over – I have been there and worn the T-Shirt!
The T-Bar, bolt croppers, wire cutters, scissors, and knife plus welders gloves all laid out on the engine box, within easy reach of where I am stood. I can then get the fish up and played out and hold my wire leader, so it’s safe and then can deal with it.
Talking of leaders, again a big lesson was learnt when I used a wire rubbing leader attached to a swivel, so when I had a fish to the boat, the fish was still 15-20ft away which caused issues.
I prefer wire rubbing leaders, so it made life so much easier when British Big Game Fishing supplied me with Wire wind-on leaders. I then could use my favoured wire, but reel the fish right to the side of the boat, with the wire coming up through the roller rings and onto the reel, but again, it was a game changer for me, the solo Sharker, and would never use anything else now.
I wholeheartedly support and advocate leaving sharks in there domain, when they are boat-side and this even more imperative when fishing alone. The Shark is under your control so it is important to treat them with the respect that they deserve, and that is in their environment, where they are fully supported.
As I have mentioned above, when the fish is beaten and boat-side, I have the wire-leader in hand, so I can then tow the fish behind the boat briefly to reinvigorate it, which they need after a lengthy fight, so having the wire leader is ideal, to be able to achieve the above for a couple of minutes at a low speed without fear of it snapping, so I can then stop the boat and then safely T-bar the fish off, or cut the hook with Bolt-croppers.
Whilst the fish is boat-side, another procedure I found difficult to undertake was to measure the fish and for this reason, I borrowed an idea from the most successful shark angling boat on the island and that was to get some decals made in 1ft increments, so that I could successfully draw the fish alongside the boat in the water and use the marker lines as a guide to its length, to give me an idea of its weight.
Obviously, the weights are rough, but from a personal point of view, whatever they weigh, they are all truly magnificent fish and I am just grateful as to make their acquaintance and am just keen to get them safely back on their way.
When you have the fish you put so much in for, it can be hard to get a prized picture alone, so this past year I have plumped for a Go Pro 7 to record all my fights. The beauty with this is that is it operated by voice control, which has been a god-send. I have had cheap video cameras in the past and had them not record the fight, so advocate Go Pro them in a big way.
I think the main factor to get across, is that Sharks are big, powerful fish and it takes some preparation and procedures put into place, to make sure that fishing for them alone, is safe for yourself and for the fish. It is a hugely rewarding chase, when it all does go right and there is nothing better than the satisfaction and huge buzz of having bettered a huge fish alone.
So, if you are tempted, make sure that you fish safely both for the fish and yourself.