Dan Hawkin’s has been taking anglers from Ilfracombe to the shark grounds to the West of the port bringing several large fish to side of the boat where they are carefully unhooked without bringing into the boat.
The Cornish town of Looe has a rich history as a fishing port and during the 1940’s and 1950’s the sport of shark fishing in the UK became popular primarily among the wealthy members of British Society or the upper classes. The book, “Shark Angling In Great Britain” by Brigadier J.A.L Caunter documents this early period and is a fascinating read.
My own connection with Looe stems from annual holidays with my parents during the late sixties and seventies. To a large extent this was where my lifelong passion for angling was formulated with many happy hours spent float-fishing for mackerel, garfish and grey mullet.
Each evening the shark fishing boats would return to port with their catches. Back then in less enlightened times virtually all shark were slaughtered and brought back to the weighing station of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain where their bloated carcasses were hauled aloft in front of masses of tourists. As a young boy I gazed in awe and dreamt of days when I could set sail to do battle with these beasts of the deep.
Looking back the wanton slaughter was misguided and undoubtedly contributed to a steep decline in numbers. Fortunately, all shark caught today are carefully released and their numbers are increasing once again. Shark fishing is an important part of Looe’s history and the recreational fishery is vitally important in supporting Looe as a fishing port as commercial fishing declines due to competition from larger ports and other factors.
The Old Sardine Factory on West Looe harbour front recently opened as a heritage centre and Restaurant. The centre hosts regular events and recently held an evening to bring together members of the shark fishing community and share memories in a memory café style event.
Seeing the advert on their Facebook page I could not resist attending and took the opportunity to have a one night break in my childhood haunt with my wife Pauline. I am so glad we made the effort for we were privileged to meet anglers and skippers from an earlier era. I am sure many memories and friendships were rekindled on that summer night. The vast array of black and white photos on display told of a bygone age that was full of larger than life characters.
The shark fishing of that era was seen as adventure on the high seas. It would be wrong to condemn the practice of those days for many believed that the seas fish stocks were inexhaustible. Today we know this is not true and methods and practice have changed to ensure that these splendid fish can be released after being brought to the boat. Anglers share many of the conservationists concerns regarding the oceans and should work in harmony to ensure both the survival of the shark and the shark angler.
One of the nights highlights was to meet Pat Smith aged 95 who travelled to the event from Leicester and still radiated enthusiasm as she recalled those golden days when she caught a huge porbeagle of 369lb.
Much of the credit for the evening goes to Rachel Bond, Dave Clarke and John McMaster.
Below is the short introduction to the event as delivered by Rachel on the night.Many thanks to Rachel for allowing me to reproduce the manuscript on these pages.
Below are a few photos I captured on the night with the kind permission of those displaying the images.
It’s been a great start to the sharking season for anglers aboard charter boat Reel Deal sailing out of Ilfracombe.
With a couple of big porbeagle already caught this season a party off anglers headed down to North Cornwall for the chance of another big early season shark. It wasn’t long before the Ammo supplied chum brought a shark to one of the baits. After a short tussle the first fish managed to shed the hook. But this wasn’t the end of the action as a big shark approached the boat later in the day nudging the floats as it circled around in the rubby dubby trail. Frustratingly the big fish seemed uninterested in the baits and the anglers thought their chance had slipped away. But with time ticking towards home time one of the frozen Ammo mackerel was taken and a long battle commenced with each angler taking fifteen minute turns on the rod.
Dan has a policy of releasing all shark at the side of the boat to minimize stress to the fish ensuring that these awesome fish will continue to hunt the clear waters off the rugged North Cornwall coast.
The huge fish was estimated at 450lb and was tamed on top quality tackle supplied by Veals Mail Order and tempted on bait supplied by Ammo Baits. The landing of the shark was team effort by Clive, Shaun, Paul,Dean and Daniel.
Dan Hawkins can reach the sharking grounds off Cornwall in the speedy purpose built 9m Colne Catamaran powered by 2×150 HP Mercury outboards in around two hours giving anglers a full days fishing with plenty of pollock and other species to catch whilst the rubby dubby works its magic.