MAKO! The launch of a Fascinating book

The book Mako! A History of encounters in the British Isles; has been a labour of love for Ian Harbage, Vice Chairman of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain.

Ian Harbage and his wife Loraine now live in Cornwall

Ian Harbage first visited Looe as a six year old boy in 1975 and like many young children of the time was fascinated by the daily weighing of shark at the SACGB’s weighing station on East Looe Quay. Back then conservation was certainly not on the agenda and the shark mostly blues were slaughtered to be hung up, their carcasses dripping blood as their captors posed proudly for a picture. In 1975 the big movie at the cinema was “Jaws”, a film that portrayed sharks as ferocious killing machines. A young Ian was captivated during that decade and like many of that generation saw captain Quint the shark hunter as a true hero.

Fortunately close to fifty years on shark angling has modified its ways and is now focussed upon conservation with all shark released at the side of the boat. Tackle has been refined to reduce damage to the shark and valuable data is recorded to increase scientific knowledge of shark migrations across vast oceans.

Ian’s book is a fascinating tome that records the history of mako shark captures in the British Isles. Ninety-eight mako shark are recorded in the book a culmination of many years of detective work with many anglers and skippers interviewed their exciting tales retold and captured in this superb book.

Entwined within the tales of these mighty fish are glimpses of salty characters who oozed charisma and loved life upon the sea.

         Ian was encouraged to write the book after meeting the Armishaw family who have been publishing fine angling books for several decades. Lee Armishaw of Watersmeet Publications gave his full backing to Ian to write the book after learning of the vast amount of knowledge Ian had gathered during a fifty year obsession with shark and in particular mako.

The book was appropriately launched at the Heritage Centre in Looe on Sunday, March 24th 2024. Pauline and I joined a room full of readers keen to receive their copies of this long awaited book. Ian took centre stage telling of how he had written the book his passion for the work evident for all to see. He read a fascinating and humorous chapter from the book that had the audience entranced. Ian thanked all members of the Watersmeet Publications team for their encouragement and expertise. Ian also thanked his wife Loraine for her support and patience over several years spent working on the book. Ian also gave thanks many others who had helped with the research.

Ian Harbage, his wife Loraine and the Watersmeet Publications Team

Dr Simon Thomas followed Ian delivering a fascinating and informative talk on the mako shark. The mako is built for speed capable of cruising over long distances in search of its prey with the ability to accelerate in ambush reaching speeds of perhaps 50mph. The trademark appearance of a mako shark is its ability to leap high out of the water. This is a sight that has cemented the mako in the many stories told by anglers who have hooked these magnificent fish.

The mako are found in ocean waters with a temperature above 16 degrees centigrade. Their range extending from New Zealand to North West Scotland. The mako can reach a weight of around 1500lb with a 500lb fish likely to be around 20 years old.

The golden era for mako shark catches in UK waters was between 1951 and 1972. The last Cornish mako was caught in 1980. Mako have been caught off Wales and Ireland in recent years and suspected sightings have been made in recent seasons.

I asked Dr Thomas if he believed climate change could result in a potential increase in mako numbers off the UK. He acknowledged that there is rapid and complex change within marine eco systems that may or may not be linked to climate change. The gulf stream influences our weather, climate and fish migrations its flow rate and global warming are complex and not necessarily one and the same.

Below is a link to Dr Simon Thomas’s talk

After Dr Simon Thomas’s talk Ian met with those who had travelled to purchase copies of the book that had virtually sold out its initial print run. Among those collecting their books was Looe Skipper, Phil Dingle, the son of Alan Dingle a family of legendary Looe Skippers who feature extensively in the book.


Phil Dingle

The Dingle family

Ian Harbage, Phil Dingle and Dr Simon Thomas

All assembled at the event were privileged to share in a moment of celebration as the book records some of Looe’s rich shark fishing history.

Talking shark

Looe has been the home of the Shark Angling Club Of Great Britain since its formation in 1953. The club’s founder was Brigadier J.A.L. Caunter, C.B.E. , M.C,. C.C. who wrote the book Shark Angling In Great Britain, published in 1961. The cover of the Mako! book comprises of a painting by Caunter that portrays a mighty mako leaping with a red sailed Looe shark boat drifting upon the sea reflecting a blue summer sky.

My own angling life started in Looe in the 1960’s when my parents visited Looe each autumn. Like Ian I gazed at the shark brought ashore each evening and dreamt of setting out one day to catch these monsters of the deep. I caught mackerel and garfish from the Banjo pier in those formative years and hold those treasured memories in my mind’s eye.

On the distant horizon on those autumn evenings I saw the rhythmic flashing of the Eddystone lighthouse. As a young angler I yearned to fish those mysterious waters where mighty shark swim. Many years later I returned and set out from Looe to catch blue shark and succeeded in catching a blue in excess of the SACGB qualifying weight. To hook a mighty mako must be one of anglings greatest thrills and to read of such battles at sea feeds the dreams.

A blue shark estimated at 100lb by skipper Dave Bond

The recording of history is important and in Ian’s book he tells history as it was warts and all. This is how it should be for times change and we should not look back and judge previous generations too harshly. Whilst I feel a sense of unease as I look at the pictures of shark carcases hung up on the weighing station I know that if I had been there in those days I too would have taken part for it was as it was in those days.

Looking through the many pictures in Ian’s book I recalled the names of many boats I had seen moored upon the quayside. Paula, Our Daddy and Irene amongst names that brought a fond recollection of times long since passed.

Shark angling has moved on and conservation is top of the agenda. The Pat Smith Data base set up by John McMaster and Dr Simon Thomas is recognised as a valuable source of information in learning about shark migration and populations.


The late Pat Smith pictured in 2018
An assembly of those involved in Looe Sharking history in 2018

Whilst writing this feature I researched the inspiration for Captain Quince in Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’ book who I believed to be Frank Mundas. Interestingly Mundas who built his reputation as a shark hunter and set a world record when he caught a 3,427lb great white shark off Montauk in the US. Frank Mundas was to become a passionate shark conservationist. There is perhaps a strange irony in this relationship between hunter and prey. Several years ago I attended a fascinating talk by Paul Boote and Jeremy Wade. During the talk about the mighty mahseer of India a book by Jim Corbett was mentioned. ‘Man-Eaters of Kumoan is an enthralling read that tells of Corbett’s tracking and killing of  numerous tigers. Corbett’s books are enthralling  and paint a fascinating picture of the relationship between hunter and prey in far off days. Like Mundas Jim Corbett became a passionate conservationist working tirelessly for the protection of tigers. His name lives on with the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand  named in his honour.

As climate change impacts upon our oceans the future of shark angling is as it should be, a mystery. Who knows what lurks beneath as the boat drifts in the dubby’s oily slick?


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’! ’ book launch and mako shark talk event:
With the eagerly awaited book launching next week, you are invited to come along to the signing event by the author, Ian Harbage, which will be followed by a presentation and a Q&A on mako sharks by marine biologist, Dr Simon Thomas.
The event will be held at ( ), , at on
It’ll be an open house and anyone is welcome to join. The Heritage Centre cafe will be open for anyone that would like teas, coffees, or perhaps even something a little stronger! While there are not many copies of the book left, a few will made available for the event for anyone still wishing to purchase a copy

Big Shark off the coast

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Daniel Welch and Jonathon Stanway enjoyed session to remember on a Private Boat bringing two big porbeagle boat side along with several good sized pollock.

Anglers have been enjoying superb shark action on Reel Deal with porbeagle and thresher shark. Shane Pavio Hookway brought a huge thresher estimated at 300lb to the side of the boat setting a club record for the species.

An exciting new book – MAKO! A History of encounters in the British Isles

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Lee Armishaw of Watersmeet Publications has provided me with details of an exciting new book due to be published at the end of May. I will update fully closer to the release date. I am sure the book will be a valuable addition to any keen sea  anglers bookshelf. The history of shark fishing in the Uk is certainly full of evocative tales.
A few key points about the book are : –
-focused on shortfin mako sharks caught in the British Isles.
-written by Ian Harbage, former Northampton Saints professional rugby player and a chap who has caught hundreds of U.K. sharks.
-the captures are listed in chronological order from the 1950’s to current day.
-it’s the result of decades of extensive research by Ian.
-It has drawn interest from the scientific community as means of learning more about the species.
-There are 95 captures listed in the book and several previously notes makos that were misidentified as porbeagle’s and corrected.
-It includes anecdotal stories and accounts of ‘ones that got away’ and additional sightings not covered in the capture list, including accounts from Trevor Houseby, Simon Thomas etc. It also includes background on SACGB from creation to current day, info on prominent female anglers such as Hetty Eathorne and Joyce Yallop etc and skipper Robin Vinnicombe, the record holder for numbers caught and nicknamed ‘the mako man’.
-Southwest port towns make up the bulk of the records, such as Looe, Mevagissey and Falmouth. There are a few from other areas such as Wales and Ireland too.
-sales available via Watersmeet Publications directly and River Reads bookshop.


Extreme Heat warning for large areas of the UK !  Not a problem 50 odd miles West of Ilfracombe  where I enjoyed a great day drifting for shark on Reel Deal skippered by Dan Hawkins. Armed with a couple of cameras I attempted to capture the day enjoyed by three Welsh anglers and an Italian. I intend to write a full feature on the trip but thought I would share a few images of the day that speak for themselves.

Many thanks to Dan Burt, Nick Davis,Tom Lardner and Stefano for making me welcome and to Dan Hawkins Skipper of Reel Deal for sharing his thoughts and expertise.



Steaming Way out West – Leaving the Dramatic North Devon Coast behind.
Fifty-Three miles out in the deeps and the wait begins – ‘Expectation’
Blue Skies – Waiting rods
Shark on ! The joy and excitement is clear to see as Stefano battles with a denizen from the deep.

All shark are now realeased boat side.

Dan grabs the rod and sets the hook as  a shark grabs a bait fished boat side.

Fulmars often give warning that sharks are about taking off suddenly.

A blue shark appears in the clear water after the fulmars take off in alarm


Dan Hawkins works hard setting up rigs and unhooking constantly offers advice. Along with regular tea and coffee
Dan Burt feels the hurt as a shark dives deep.
Dan Burt with a fine blue estimated at 90lb +


With barbless circle hooks all the shark were released at the side of the boat

Nick Davis plays a hard fighting blue as Dan looks on offering encouragement


Tom Lardner in action


Floats bob optimistically upon the vast ocean – Any second—what is beneath?
Neatly hooked in the scissors


Quality Penn tackle supplied by High Street Tackle

On the way back we are treated to the wonderful sights of dolphins



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Daniel Hawkins focused on taking anglers in search of shark during the month of September and enjoyed a great deal of success bringing a good number of porbeagle and thresher shark to the side of the boat. The biggest porbeagle was estimated at an impressive 550lb.

Reel Deal moves up to Watchet for the winter season while the sister boat Predator 2 skippered by Archie Porter remains at Ilfracombe and will be running trips throughout the winter targeting spurdog, bull huss and conger.

Porbeagle shark brace

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Daniel Welch and Ross Stanway enjoyed an awesome day on the boat with good numbers of bass and a couple stunning porbeagle shark. Dan and Ross both bringing fish of over 200lb to the side of the boat. Dans son Solly was at hands share the experience. The three anglers also enjoyed sport with bass.

Many thanks to Dan for allowing me to use the splendid images.

A room full of memories – Looe Sharking

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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.

Living timeline – Written by John McMaster and Rachel Bond 

Welcome to the Old Sardine Factory Heritage Centre and welcome to our Sharking Legends event.

This event is all about catching up with old friends, meeting people who you thought you might never meet and sharing stories, pictures and other Sharky stuff.

I already know that many of you are well known to each other but by way of introduction and also to give us an opportunity to thank you all let me just mention a few names.

Sharking is littered with successful lady anglers so its tremendous to be able to welcome Pat Smith who has come all the way from Leicester to be with us tonight. Pat is the last surviving Ladies British record holder for shark which she holds for a magnificent 369lbs Porbeagle, caught out of Looe in 1970.  Pat is one of an elite group of lady anglers, many who like her have held and some still hold British and World records. Names like Hetty Eathorne, Patsy McKim, and Joyce Yallop to name only a few. No ladies list would be complete without our own Looe ladies legend, Daphne Case. Sadly, these ladies are no longer with us but I am pleased to say that Judi Berry, Daphne Cases daughter is with us tonight and has brought along her mothers scrap book which you must find the time to have a look at this evening. 

It’s also great to have Jackie Gould with us tonight who has brought along some of her pictures and I am sure some stories to share with us as well.

Sharking was not just about skippers and anglers as it also brought revenue to many businesses as well. Here in Looe names like the Salutation Inn, the Hannafore Point Hotel, the Portbyhan and the Jolly Sailor and many more welcomed anglers and their families to Looe.  One of the most influential of those businesses was of course Jack Bray & Son. In the early days the cost of sharking fishing tackle put it beyond the reach of many. By hiring fishing tackle for the day, Jack made the sport accessible to many people, which helped tremendously with the growth of the sport and the SACGB.  Jack Brays was a weigh centre and sharking trips could also be arranged via the shop and while sadly, Martin has been unable to make it tonight, Martin has an invaluable wealth of knowledge of the sports history.

And last but certainly not least we have our skippers line up which I can best describe as a, living timeline, with us tonight.


We have Alan Dingle who skippered the Lady Betty when Pat caught her record Porbeagle and when Joyce Yallop caught her record Mako. We have John Kitto, and Bill Cowan from Polperro. We have Ernie Curtis and Mally Toms, Ian King from Lyme, Richard Butters, Paul Greenwood and Graham Hannford from Plymouth.

No sharking skipper gathering would be complete without mentioning some of those legendary characters who are no longer with us but the memories of them won’t ever leave us. Skippers like Ivan Chaston, Bonzo, Edgar Williams, Bill and Jack Butters, Bert Dingle Robin Vinnicome, Phil Gould and some many many more.

Then of course we have the “younger skippers”!! Well, I had to call them that to get them to come. We have Murray Collings, Pete Davis, Dave Bond, Phil Dingle, Phil Curtis, Dan Margetts  xxxxxxxx

I would very much like a group photograph of all of you at some point this evening and if any of you would like a copy let me know and I will arrange to send you one.

I would also like to say a couple of last thank yous, firstly to the Shark Club for their assistance in curating this exhibition and loaning us some fascinating items, and secondly to John Mac, John  has been my go to shark expert, exhibition and speech writing consultant, photo mounting expert, coffee provider, and general fountain of all knowledge and has been a huge support to me throughout the lead up to this exhibition, so thank you.

We aim to close the event around 8pm but in the meantime we have cider at the bar, and please do say hello to our volunteers with cameras, who will be trying to capture the event and your wonderful memories and stories for us.

This heritage centre runs on donations, so anything you can give towards us being able to put on events like these would be hugely appreciated. Dave Bond guaranteed me that he and the other skippers would whack a tenner in each…

Finally thanks very much for all your input and I hope you enjoy the event.

Below are a few photos I captured on the night with the kind permission of those displaying the images.


Reel Deal – Porbeagle latest!

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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.

Eventually the mighty fish was glimpsed in the clear water.

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.