Angler catches shark in Ireland


Hexanchus griseus, bluntnose six-gill shark

From British daily The Independent:

You should have seen the shark that got away…

It’s the biggest fish ever caught off the British Isles – but not everybody is happy

By Jonathan Brown and Michael McCarthy

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Big? It’s enormous. It’s immense. It’s the whopper of all whoppers, the largest fish ever caught on rod and line in the waters of the British Isles. And it was caught by a pensioner.

It took Joe Waldis 35 minutes of almighty struggle to bring the 12ft 9ins bluntnose six-gill shark to the side of his boat off the coast of County Clare in south-west Ireland, after it took his mackerel bait. When it was brought ashore it was found to weigh a staggering 1,056lbs (480kg) – or just under half a ton. This decisively smashes the record for the heaviest rod-caught fish in British or Irish waters, overtaking a 968lb bluefin tuna caught in 2001 (also off Ireland), and is more than double the weight of the heaviest rod-caught fish within the UK, a porbeagle shark of 507lbs taken off Orkney in 1993.

It is nearly three times the weight of the heaviest fish caught in freshwater in Britain, a sturgeon of 388lbs which was taken from the River Towy in South Wales in 1933. It is the angling tale to cap all angling tales, and it left Mr Waldis, 70, a visiting Swiss fisherman who lives near Zurich, as astonished as the rest of the angling world.

But alongside the astonishment, there is also controversy, as the question is now being widely asked: shouldn’t he have put it back alive, rather than having it killed and brought ashore to be weighed? For these days, increasingly, “trophy” fish are returned to the water – and some anglers think this should apply no less to the biggest trophy of them all. The stirrings of unease can be found even in the columns of the fishermen’s bible, Angling Times, which this week gives over all of its pages two and three to Mr Waldis’s remarkable capture, complete with a series of dramatic pictures showing him dwarfed by his prize.

The newspaper quotes both Luke Aston, the skipper on the record-breaking trip, and the chairman of the Shark Trust, Richard Peirce, as expressing disappointment that Mr Waldis did not release his capture. …

The biggest fish caught on a rod and line anywhere in the world is believed to have been a 3,427lbs great white shark, caught in 1986 off Montauk, New York, by Frank Mundus – the fisherman thought to have been the model for the shark hunter Quint in the novel and Stephen Spielberg movie Jaws.

Monsters of the deep: Six-gill sharks

* Six-gill sharks are a deep-water species, typically inhabiting depths of more than 300ft, and they have been recorded more than 6,000ft down.

* The sharks are found all over the world, from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to Australia and Alaska, and have a diverse range of prey, from molluscs and crustaceans to salmon, hake and even seals.

* They are only rarely caught, and that is usually at night when they tend to come nearer the surface.

* The females grow bigger than males and can reach as much as 5.5m (18ft) long.

A third of open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction, according to the first global study to assess the conservation status of 64 species: here.

Sixgill shark siblings stick together: here.

5 thoughts on “Angler catches shark in Ireland

  1. The Alligator Gar Is One Ugly Fish, With Few Friends but New Fans

    Texans Kill Crafty Critters With Crossbows; Fishing Limits Are the Order of the Day

    By TOM BENNING

    CROCKETT, Texas — The sadly misunderstood alligator gar, reviled for its frighteningly huge and prehistoric appearance and rows of razor-sharp teeth, has been hunted for centuries.

    Fishermen despise the gar because they believe the fish devour prized bass and crappie. Swimmers and boaters fear the gar’s alligator-shaped jaws could take a chunk out of them in the water.

    Gar Guides Lead Hunt for Big Fish

    John Paul Morris, the son of Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris, sizes up the jaws of the 8-foot-3-inch long alligator gar he caught on a bow fishing trip.

    But in recent times, alligator gar have experienced a kind of trash-to-trophy renaissance as sportsmen discovered the thrill of hunting the beasts, which can weigh up to 300 pounds and reach 8 feet in length. Gar hunting, with rod-and-reel as well as crossbow, has spawned a booming market for guides who charge as much as $750 a day to lead their clients deep into the muddy backwaters of Texas where the monster fish thrive.

    In the rural South, the prospect of bagging a trophy gator gar inspires a special brand of enthusiasm. “I don’t consider myself a redneck, but sometimes I do redneck stuff,” says Mark Malfa, a gar guide in central Texas.

    Paula Boudra, an athletic 32-year-old, drove nearly six hours from Sheridan, Ark., one night earlier this month for the chance to kill her first alligator gar with a crossbow. Armed with stainless-steel, prong-tipped arrows that can pierce the gar’s thick scales, her guides, Sam Lovell and Steve Barclay, steered their flat-bottom boat into the brambly creeks of East Texas’s Trinity River.

    Conversation flagged as everyone scanned the water for a glimpse of the gar’s cigar-shaped body rolling to the surface. “This is a slow and patient game we are playing,” said Mr. Lovell.

    It was the alligator gar’s growing popularity as a target for sportsmen that finally spurred Texas wildlife officials earlier this year to impose a one-gar-per-day-per-person bag limit, which takes effect Sept. 1. Gar populations were thinning as dam and dike construction ruined spawning sites, and wildlife experts worried the fish would become endangered.

    The limit has infuriated commercial fishermen, who catch gar by the hundreds to export to Mexico, where they are a popular menu item. Some hunting guides worry the limit could ruin their business, too. The mere notion that alligator gar would need protecting strikes even some of the fish’s biggest fans as ridiculous. “Even if we wanted to kill ’em all, these fish are too smart,” says Mr. Barclay.

    The misunderstood alligator gar, reviled for its frighteningly huge, prehistoric appearance and rows of razor-sharp teeth, has been ruthlessly hunted for centuries. Now, conservationists seek to protect it. Tom Benning reports from Texas.

    Through history, the alligator gar’s biggest problem — and best defense — has been its fearsome appearance and tough construction. Scientists track gar’s tenure on earth back 150 million years, to about the time birds began to fly.

    There are several different varieties. Needle-nose gar have long skinny snouts. Shortnose gar have only one row of teeth. But the biggest and scariest is the alligator gar. The fish’s hard, thick scales are as big as a 50-cent piece. Primitive lungs and gills mean it occasionally needs to breathe air — but also that it can survive two hours after being pulled from the water.

    Two rows of dagger-pointed teeth and a powerfully muscled body make it a voracious predator, and present a terrifying aspect to humans who dare to swim in the brackish inland waters that gar populate. Staff at Sam Rayburn Marina Resort in southeast Texas keep a file of gar facts to reassure parents worried about their children swimming in Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

    Marine biologists scoff at such fears. “No self-respecting gar would go after a human,” says Allyse Ferrara, a gar expert at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

    For decades, many sport fisherman believed gar were feasting on all their game fish. In 1930, a federal wildlife official wrote, “This odd fish is called by a dozen names, none of which is intended to be complimentary.”

    Some states made it illegal to throw a live gar back in the water. Some tried dynamiting the fish. In Texas, Col. J.G. Burr, a state wildlife researcher in the 1930s, was so obsessed with eliminating gar that he rigged up the “Electrical Gar Destroyer,” a boat that sent a strong, stunning electrical current into the water, to kill gar.

    Elroy Krueger, a retired fishing guide in south Texas, saw alligator gar overrun Choke Canyon Reservoir in the early 1990s. Mr. Krueger tried to fish them to extinction. He succeeded in beating them back, but now he sees the gar populations rising again.

    “This lake is doomed,” says Mr. Krueger.

    Researchers disagree. Alligator gar will eat whatever is most abundant, including bass, but mainly feeder fish and invasive species like carp.

    After September, every Southern state with gar populations except Louisiana will have some kind of alligator gar fishing limits.

    The bag limit won’t deter hunters gaming for bragging rights to a monster gar, say Texas guides Mr. Barclay and Mr. Lovell, who call themselves the “Gar Guys” and promote their services on a Web site.

    Hunting gar is part fishing, part tracking and part target shooting. In the muddy, oxygen-thin water of inland lakes and bayous, gar will rise to the surface and roll, gulping air. In the middle of the day, they will float near the surface, sunning themselves. That makes them a tempting target for bow-fishermen such as Ms. Boudra, one of the Gar Guys’ recent clients.

    The guides maneuvered their boat down a vine-choked offshoot of the Trinity River. Chase Echols and Richard Jordan, gar hunters from Conroe, Texas, were along for the ride, hoping for a chance at a monster trophy. Just 10 minutes into the trip, Mr. Jordan leveled a shot at a 7-foot gar not 10 feet from the boat, but the arrow glanced off its back. “That gar just sat there and grinned at me,” said Mr. Jordan.

    For the remainder of the day, the big gar kept rolling just out of range, frustrating the hunters. Then Mr. Barclay spotted a baby about 3 feet long. It swam straight for the boat through the chocolate-milk-colored water. Ms. Boudra waited until its head was nearly bumping the boat before firing. Her arrow pierced the 30-pound gar dead center on its back.

    Hauling her small prize into the boat, Ms. Boudra could hardly claim it as a trophy. But she wasn’t discouraged.

    “This gives me a reason to come back,” she said.

    Write to Tom Benning at tom.benning@wsj.com

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124631318638370373.html

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