Catching the shark bug
  |  First Published: November 2007

Just about everywhere is firing at present and it doesn't matter where you fish, you should be catching something.

The rocks have started to produce some nice blackfish and drummer and the estuaries are fishing well for flathead. There are bass and estuary perch farther up the Shoalhaven and St George's Basin is fishing as well as it ever has for bream, flathead and whiting. The beaches are producing some bream and whiting and there are reds and flathead outside. What more could you ask for?

I have a confession to make. Despite all of the above fishing on offer and having bagged shark anglers in the past, we've been out drifting around and chasing some makos over the past few months.

September was pretty quiet on the yellowfin run that we were all waiting for. There were, however, a heap of makos so I finally gave in and had a go at them. My young bloke Andrew and his mates are shark nuts and I've given them heaps in the past about using hundreds of kilos of berley and killing sharks just to weigh them and get a set of jaws but all of this criticism was biased because I'd never actually tried it myself.

My first effort was with Andrew and my daughter Rebecca, 12. We trolled a few lures around for a yellowfin with no result and then set up a berleying drift at the Kiama Canyons. We put a fish box full of fish frames through the berley pot along with about 20kg of frozen fish mince through a keeper net. We had two whole striped tuna baits with 12/0 hooks in them but despite about six hours of berleying in perfect conditions we never turned a reel.

On our next trip two weeks later, John Rattenbury, Craig Owen, Rebecca and I fished wide of The Banks aboard Voodoo. We trolled in a token effort in case there were any yellowfin but the old berley trail was soon established and we drifted slowly in perfect conditions in 150 fathoms.

It took about three hours to get a mako up but when it did arrive it came straight in and chewed on the berley pot. It was about 150kg. We baited it up on 15kg for Bec and she was straight onto the biggest fish she's ever hooked. About half an hour into the fight and we had another fish of about 80kg hanging around. Craig baited that up on 10kg and we soon had a double hook-up.

Craig's fish jumped several times and was eventually gaffed and tail-roped to the aft port corner. Bec fought on with her fish as a group of humpback whales swam over. At one stage we had several whales under and around the boat only metres under the surface and got it all on video.

After an hour-and-a-half Bec had her fish to within 30m of the gaffs when the line popped for no apparent reason. Craig's fish went 78.5kg.


The following weekend we were at it again with more berley and baits drifting wide of The Banks. We fished hard for several hours with no result while the guys on Outcast caught three sharks just 10km north, up off Kiama. At 1pm we made the difficult decision to break the trail and head north.

We got up to Outcast just in time to catch them dragging a world-record claim blue shark aboard, 192.5kg on 6kg for young Andrew, the second-heaviest blue shark caught in Australia.

The guys on Outcast had to get back into Wollongong for a weigh-in so we took over their berley trail. Within 15 minutes we had a mako grab a deep bait and Bec was on again on 15kg. This fish jumped twice then ripped away a few hundred metres of line. Bec did a great job fighting it in rough and windy conditions while we drifted around 30 miles east of Kiama.

She had it up to the boat after an hour and I got a wrap on the wire trace. We bounced a 7” flying gaff off the fish and I had to dump the trace as the mako powered away and headed deep. At one stage Bec had more than 400m of line out straight down.

After half an hour the line just went slack and it was all over. The trip back gave us all time to reflect on the loss. Despite two lost makos we'll be back out there and I know Bec won't give up until she has a fish to her credit. She's on a mission!

The guys on Outcast took out most of the capture trophies in the Wollongong GFC Open and Andrew's world record claim is in the process.


Chasing mako sharks from any boat is dangerous and even more so from small boats. If you're thinking about having a go, make sure you're prepared with suitable gaffs, tail ropes and reinforced bollards.

Get your tracing and gaffing down pat and have a game plan of who traces the fish and who gaffs. It's too late to decide when you've got an angry mako swimming next to the boat. This is no place for inexperience.

I've heard of a few guys with broken bones in their hands from tracing sharks and hanging on. And expect to get some damage to your boat. Shark skin is like sandpaper and scuffs paintwork and gelcoat and flying gaffs take horrific gouges out of fibreglass.

If you want your boat to stay in pristine condition don't keen think about going shark fishing. My boat is less than six months old but it's already got a few battle scars from makos.

Now I'm off to fish the Shoalhaven River with the Bay and Basin Club for bass and estuary perch. Hopefully that'll be a bit more sedate and cheaper than mako sharks.

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