It’s sometimes good to rekindle visits to old ports and a trip to Plymouth chasing blue shark was an opportunity I relished. After an early start I met up with Jeff Pearce, Mark Underhill, James Coggan and Wayne Webb at Plymouth Hoe. The morning sun was glowing behind Sutton Harbour and the National Marine Aquarium as thundery clouds hung low as the heatwave of recent days faded with the onset of a low pressure system.

            We jumped aboard Dave Uren’s Mirage and steamed out into Plymouth Sound after picking up Dave’s Crewman Tony from the East side of the harbour.

            The familiar sites of Plymouth slowly faded into the distance as we headed for waters beyond the Eddystone Lighthouse thirteen miles off the coast.

            Far out here the sea was a deeper clearer blue; storm petrels swooped low over the water as huge cargo boats travelled the shipping lanes. The dense clouds of earlier in the day had burnt away with light fluffy cumulus clouds populating a blue summer sky.

            Tony the crewman had worked hard as we bounced across the waves preparing a good sized tub of rubby-dubby made from mashed up fish and the skippers own secret ingredients. This was placed into large onion sacks and tied to the boat rails and lowered into the water where the motion of the waves released a steady trickle of oil scent and particles.

            As the shark rods were carefully prepared by Tony we had a draw to determine the sequence of run taking. I was fortunate to draw number one, Jeff was number two, James three, Wayne four and Mark five.

            I always relish this part of the day. Rods set, floats bobbing in an oily slick the day ahead a blank canvas of adventure and possibility.

            After a short while a reel was screaming its harsh staccato warning. I picked up the rod and felt for the pull of the fish that appeared to have dropped the bait. I reeled in a few yards and waited for a few moments fearing my chance had gone. As I went to put the rod down the reel once again screamed and I tightened the drag winding to take up tension and allow the circle hook to gain a hold. After a spirited battle a blue of around 70lb appeared boat-side where it was released in a flurry of spray.

            The rods were reset and the drift continued. Whilst  waiting bottom baits were sent down to the sea bed where whiting and small gurnard seized the baited feathers. Some of the whiting were used as shark baits the gurnard were returned and swam briskly down into the depths from whence they had come.

A handsome gurnard

A gannet appeared boat side scrounging for scraps, unusual behaviour for a bird that normally thrills as it plummets from the sky to feast upon its prey. Dave commented that numerous dead gannets have been sighted floating upon the sea. Likely casualties of a bird flu pandemic that is decimating sea bird populations around the UK.

The sight of broken water several hundred yards from the boat caught our eyes. We all gasped in wonder as a huge tuna leapt high above the water to crash back and rejoin a feeding frenzy hidden beneath the waves.

We chatted of fish, fishing and life as the boat drifted. Anticipation slowly waned as the floats remained frustratingly buoyant. I quoted a previous skipper who had suggested the best time for shark is at around 2.00pm.

A reel screamed promptly at my prediction and Jeff grabbed the rod and set the hook. The shark battled gamely and all other tackles were removed from the water. As we peered into the clear water the large sleek blue shape of another shark appeared and approached the suspended dubby bags. Dave shouted for the bags to be lifted away from the shark for the breaking of the bags would break the all-important scent trail. The large shark circled majestically in the clear water.

Jeffs shark was unhooked boat side and a fresh whiting bait dropped in front of the shark that nudged the bait before devouring it. After a few tugs on the line the shark took off for the deeps as James Goggan enjoyed his first thrilling encounter with a blue shark.

James the owner of Fowey Aquarium had been chatting with me earlier in the day admonishing writers who waxed lyrical about shark ripping into rubby dubby bags in a feeding frenzy. After securing his prize James conceded that those angling writer’s tales were true. The next two shark came within a short time and it was almost time to head back to Plymouth with all onboard successfully having hooked and played blues estimated from 25lb to 90lb.

Just one bait remained suspended on a short line beneath the boat. To my delight the reel screamed and it was once again my turn to do battle. After a spirited tussle a blue of around 40lb was unhooked boat side. A pleasing end to our days fishing.


We steamed two hours back to Plymouth, chatting and planning further trips. The Eddystone stood on the horizon a familiar symbol of man’s long relationship with the English Channel as it meets the mighty Atlantic.

We all climbed from ‘Mirage’ just a stone’s throw from the insignificant Mayflower Steps from whence the Pilgrim Fathers had sailed to New England in 1620, over four hundred years ago.