Shark Fishing - Kinda, Sorta

Thanks to Luke Tipple, Director of the Shark Free Marina Initiative, and his inquiries, we expect, as this plays out, an eventual full disclosure. For now, it appears that responsibility of the facts are not exclusive to the anglers involved, but are shared with the reporting news agency. Until we know more, we’ll reserve benefit-of-the-doubt, but not without comment.

As advocates for sustainability, we’ve personally evolved from a place where subduing a fish like this using legal, conventional and sporting methods would’ve been a perfectly natural thing for us to do. This isn’t to say we’re any better now or holier-than-thou standing next to our fellow sportsmen. It’s just us and it’s a fact, based on our personal, first-hand experience with the changes we’ve seen ‘out there’ over the past three plus decades. We’re the first to admit that opinions are like @**holes and elbows — just about everyone’s got ‘em. With that said, encounters with animals like this mako are, indeed, increasingly rare. In our personal experience and first-hand observation, that ‘opinion’ extends from Florida to the far reaches of the northeastern seaboard where we’ve encountered our fair share of makos over the years. As of late, they are smaller and much less common. Imagining us in a situation, today, like these anglers found themselves in, we’d have considered hopping over the side with video cameras. Closer interaction using rod and reel, and catch / tag / release methods would be another choice, but hey, that’s just us.

As extremely discriminating participants in, and consumers of the media, we’re unfortunately not surprised, but no less disappointed, that yet another shark catching story has been allowed to run amok. Aside from the obligatory footnote about the shark being consumed for food that ended the piece, it felt pretty much like 1976 all over again. We sort of had that same feeling you get when you watch some well intended, but talentless hack butchering a classic tune during auditions for ‘American Idol’. You’re kind of pissed, but you can’t help feeling embarrassed for the poor sob. This reporting was just another fine example of your average, sensationalized, if it bleeds – it leads, news story. In other words, ‘Why let the facts get in the way of a good story’? No excuse.

Finally, as big game anglers, we understand the distinct smell that boiling human blood gives off when a big fish appears causing our hunter-gather instincts to take over the mental wheel house. These anglers were noted as having fished together for the past 15 years. We’re going out on a skinny limb here, but it seems possible this is the biggest fish any of them have ever encountered. If so, that, in and of itself, helps make sense of some of what we watched, and more importantly, heard in the news piece, and it goes a long way in shedding light on the ‘anglers’ subsequent actions and decisions. Inexperience, blind excitement and panic. It happens, and it’s a recipe for, well … exactly what we see here. It’s no small wonder this story didn’t include more in the way of serious injuries or worse. At least they dodged those bullets.

Absent of all the facts, and as fellow recreational anglers, we’d like to pose a few questions directly to these guys, without prejudice or judgment of their actions, but just to help us all learn something useful before eventually putting this one to rest. Unlike the reporter, we’re actually interested in the facts behind this somewhat unbelievable fish story. We’ve handled a lot of big sharks from a boat deck and we’ve been scratching holes in our heads trying to figure out how this animal was captured using gaffs alone. It just seems there’s got to be more to it than what the reporter mentioned. So, as anglers, we ask:

1. Was swordfish your primary species target that day?
2. Is the sword in the video one you caught … that day?
3. If so, did the shark follow it in, while on the line, or did it show up later, as the sword was tied off at boat side?
4. Once it showed up, how long was it played before the harvest decision was made?
5. At any time after the mako was sighted, did any of you consider pitching it a bait with conventional rod and reel tackle?
6. If not, was that because you didn’t have anything rigged and ready or that gaffing the fish seemed a better alternative?
7. Did any of you realize or consider the legality of this chosen method, at the time?
8. How many and exactly what types of gaffs were used (a flying gaffs seems to briefly appear about 35 sec. into the video)?
9. If a flying gaff was used, how long was the fish tied off to it?
10. Once the first gaff was placed, how long did it take (the fight) until the fish was brought on board?
11. Was the fish dragged and drown before bringing it on board?
12. When and/or were any other devices used, i.e. harpoons, tail ropes, firearms, float balls?
13. How/why was the media contacted?

And one final question that may help to answer a lot of others. We know, first hand, exactly how stories can get twisted from actual interview to broadcast or publication. Given the resulting circumstances, how accurate, in your mind, was the reporting on your story and what would you like to say in your own defense or to otherwise clarify the incident?

As Luke Tipple said:

This isn’t about animal rights, persecuting fishermen or slandering a news network. This is about promoting public knowledge of acceptable fishing practices. Your story (the reporter’s) made light of possible, and serious, code violations in regards to a threatened species of shark. That is not acceptable. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the media practices responsibility in its reporting.

You are the only ones that really know what happened. Right or wrong. Legal or not, you have an opportunity to be the exception and not the rule … do the right thing and set the record straight.

Over & Out,
Sean Paxton
Brooks Paxton II

NOTE: You can follow more of this story via the reference below at its source on SharkFreeMarinas.com.

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