In Cornish Waters

Its alarming how fast time and life fly’s past and the latest uncertain times have not slowed anything down. It was good to be heading down to Penzance with James and Rob for our annual pilgrimage in search of shark off the tip of Cornwall. As always a constant monitoring of the weather forecast preceded the trip and for once it seemed that luck was on our side with winds forecast to drop away to a light southerly on the day of the trip.

We planned to revisit a well known cove close to Penzance on the day before our boat trip. We had enjoyed an enjoyable session there twelve months ago when a calm sea and sunny skies had greeted us. Twelve months on it was a grey and breezy day with steady drizzle. Huge waves surged against the headland and plenty of weed floated in the water.

Lures were launched from the old granite jetty and as the tide flooded a few fish started to come to the shore. James went for a walk to the headland and took a refreshing swim whilst Rob and I persevered with the lures. Mackerel and small pollock put a pleasing bend in light rods and it was great to be away from life’s trials and tribulations.

We returned to Penzance to enjoy a delicious meal where we were staying at the Lugger Inn on the promenade. There was of course much talk of pandemics and its devastating effect on the economy and daily life. In this strange world of masked shoppers, sanitiser and social distancing it was good to relish the thought of heading out to sea.

Dolphins captured on film by James Thomas

After grabbing breakfast and hot coffee at Mc Donald’s we joined Jason Barrow and Bruce Elston on the quayside to board Bite Adventures, one of Cornwall’s  top Charter boats. By 8:30 we were feathering for mackerel in the calm waters of the bay. It was a misty morning that seemed surreal as dolphins materialized all around the boat gracefully swimming within just a few yards. Whilst we wanted to grab our camera’s Chippy was urging us to get to work catching bait for the day ahead. We listened intently as Chippy told the tale of the huge tuna hooked the previous day. The resurgence of tuna in Cornish waters is an exciting development. It is frustrating that it is illegal to target these splendid game fish that could support a thriving sport fishing venture. The tuna are classed as an endangered species yet it is not catch and release sport fishing that will lead to the loss of these fish in our waters. The tuna have returned to Cornish waters because the pilchard have returned. The commercial fishery is of course reaping a harvest of many hundreds of tons each day. How long before we have once again allowed the decimation of a fishery repeating once again the mistakes of the past? Do those in power not understand that the food chain needs to be healthy if the prime species at the top are to prosper? Sustainable fishing is of course the answer fishing methods need to be restricted to prevent overfishing.

After  1.5 hours we reached the sharking grounds close to thirty miles off the coast of West Cornwall and within minutes of stopping the engines we were to witness the memorable sight of tuna leaping several feet from the water. The deep and mysterious waters off the West Country Coast hold many secrets and this is perhaps one of the greatest attractions of shark fishing for anything can turn up in these waters. Recent sightings have included minke whales along with the tuna and dolphins.

A misty gloom created an eerie atmosphere as Chippy pointed out the towering shadow of a giant tanker at anchor. Perhaps at rest as economic turmoil sweeps across the world.

The rubby-dubby sacks in position releasing a pungent slick of fish fragments and oils we started our drift. Lots were drawn to see who would go first. Baited feathers were then sent to the depths to catch whiting hook-baits. Plump whiting were hauled to the surface along with numerous gurnards that were immediately sent back to swim from whence they had come.

Rob had drawn number one in the draw and it wasn’t long before the float plunged beneath the waves and the reel screamed its warning. And so the day unfolded as we drifted through the day. Periods of tense anticipation between runs then quite frequently two sharks at once in frantic periods of action. Chippy expertly advising us where to dodge as we successfully managed to avoid tangled lines. The sharks were brought to the side of the boat and quickly unhooked using the T-Bar to dislodge the circle hook. Three shark of around 90lb were brought onto the boat for a quick photo providing a lasting memo of a special day.

Gannets, storm petrels, an artic skua, fulmars and the more common seagulls kept us company throughout the day. Grey skies stretched to a far horizon; rods bent in frequent encounters with streamlined blues.

By the end of the days fishing we had caught 26 shark most between 60lb and 70lb with three of them estimated to be up around 90lb.

We bounced back over a slight swell to Penzance all cherishing memories of great day afloat and looking forward to the next out on Cornish waters.