I only got to fish for “White Pointers” once. I had quite a shock when we weighed our 1,492-pound catch and a basketful of small skulls and rib cages fell out onto the dock and landed near our feet!
Johno Johnson, a great Aussie angler and good friend, and I went shark fishing off Port Fairy in the Great Australian Bight in the early 1970s. Johno had chartered a converted lobster boat rigged up for rod and reel angling.
We anchored up near a small rocky island which held a big population of seals. It was just after Christmas, which is mid-summer Down Under, and while the temperature on land was extremely hot, well over 100 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale, it remained cool enough out on the water to need jeans and a light wind breaker jacket.
We dribbled tuna oil into the water to start a chum slick and took a pair of 20-pound fillets off each of a pair of yellowtail kingfish, close relatives to — and very much like — a pair of amberjacks. We hung the frames of the filleted fish off the stern, shaking them every few minutes to add to the scent trail, and waited.
The “fighting chair” was an old fashioned barber's chair with some kind of gimble fitted to the front of the seat and a very low foot rest. It was sufficient — just barely. We had brought a seat harness and two of our heavy 130 rods from Cairns.
The boat was too beamy to clear both corners even with our heavy tackle. The chair was offset slightly from the center line of the boat allowing us to clear one corner, an acceptable but not ideal solution.
When we got the bite, I coached the lobster boat skipper in turning toward the shark, which was taking line under heavy drag at a good but not scary speed, nothing like a big marlin or giant tuna.
We followed at about a 45-degree angle to the shark's track for several minutes. When it slowed, we turned and backed after it and upped the drag, well above strike, and soon had it stopped.
Johno pumped it toward the boat and we could see it was tail wrapped. Being pulled backward, unable to take line, deprived it of oxygen and we had it alongside in about half an hour after we hooked it.
I took the cable leader and pulled its tail far enough forward for a crew man to gaff it in the bottom jaw and get a strong tail rope on its tail. We then dragged it alongside for several miles back to the dock.
As we lifted it to the scale and the skulls and rib cages tumbled out onto my feet, my first thought was that it had somehow gotten a bunch of kindergarten kids at a beach!
I was horrified and disgusted, but then quickly realized it had devoured and digested around a dozen young seals!
I have a big Great White Shark tooth and some memories I will never lose — I can still see the skulls and rib cages!
Look for a column in Marlin Magazine on use of chairs not on the center line of the boat.
Good fishing — Peter B. Wright