My First Thresher Shark

 By Harry Antipala

My brother (Boating Safety Statistic) and I launched from the Dana Point boat ramp at about 5:45.  We rolled by the receiver and got some nice 6-7 inch sardines from Gundy.  The plan was to pin one on and slow troll outside straight to the Headlands buoy and down the kelp line to Salt Creek. 

I was trolling two sticks, one with a dine and the other a little flasher rig with a B2 Squid, flasher rigs or just any multi component complicated rig have been nothing but trouble for me and as usual it kept fowling, I am over getting tricky on the yak, for me it just does not work.  

There was a bit of a head wind (NW) and every time I fowled the flasher rig, I lost ground.  I wanted to get to the Headlands someday.  I pulled in the dine and slapped on a greenback pattern stainless CD14 so I could pick up the paddle pace and still have something in the water that could get hit.

Made it to the headlands.   The wind was not slamming but it was enough for a great halibut drift.  So I pinged my bro on the radio and told him I was gonna troll the outside kelp line up to Creek and then head inside the kelp line, riding the drift and dragging sardines back south.  About ľ mile N of the headlands buoy and 25 yards outside the kelp line, the clicker goes off on the CD14.  The rig is a Shimano TLD 20/40 spooled with #35 on a Sabre rated for #30-80.  The hit is not that amazing and at first I think it may be Kelp, I grab the stick out of the holder and then it starts to pull hard, turn off the clicker and pray that it heads East to open ocean and not into the kelp.  God is good and heads out to sea with me in tow.  Itís just taking line like crazy and Iím thinking how am I gonna stop has gotta be a HUGE WHITE SEABASS.  I am so stoked!  I manage to use one hand to call my bro on the radio and tell him to hurry up because I am going on a major sleigh ride and may need some help landing the fish.

I work the fish for about 20 minutes and just when I get it to color, my brother paddles up.  Perfect timing.  However the color I see is not a white seabass but rather the tip of a thresher tail with my Rapala double treble-hooked in the tail.  The adrenaline is already high and now I am like OK, what the heck am I going to do!!  I have read everything I could find about landing threshers on the yak and even watched the video of Rhyno and the boys landing them up north.  However the prospect of actually doing it was pretty freaky.

The shark looked very large underwater and I actually contemplated letting it go, but that thought did not last long.  My brother is like "dude just grab the tail and drag it into your lap and take the bat to its head".  The Rapala is in the tail so I am thinking that if I am going to grab the tail, it will whip and stick me with the Rapala.  But if I tie it off, it canít whip me.  So I pass the rope to my bro and ask him to cut me off about 6 feet.  While he is working on this, the fish takes three more short runs.  I get the tail up to the right rail and my bro comes alongside the left rail and passes me the rope.  I tie one end of the rope off to my front bar and put the other end in my mouth and pass my bro the rod and make a grab for the base of the tail. As soon as I touch the tail it goes nuts and head back down.  I take the rod from my bro (since he is fighting the fish across my deck) and manage to get the tail back up in about 5 minutes.  This happens two more times with us getting ready to tail tie it and having it go nuts as soon as I touch it. 

On the fourth time I get the tail up I notice that only one hook is holding on.  I tell my bro "This is it... am taking the fish."  I pass him the rod, grab the base of the tail, pulling it up to wrap and tie it.  All of a sudden the weight shifts.   As soon as he dumps over backwards with the fish, my weight shifts.  Since he had a leg on my boat to stabilize me, I go over towards the shark.  I am now in the water holding the shark by the tail with one hand thinking this is not good!  I am also thinking "OH MY GOSH, ALL MY GEAR!"  As soon as I internalize the loss of the gear (took like 3 seconds), I resolve that it will have to be an issue of life and death before I let this thing go now.  

Somehow I manage to hold onto the shark with one hand and climb up onto my flipped yak, from me flipping to getting back on the yak was like less than a minute. Now picture thisÖ Me sitting on the hull of my yak still wrestling the shark, my brother swimming around gathering everything he can before it sinks as our rigs slowly sinking to the bottom.  I am trying not to laugh due to the intensity of the situation but just canít help it.  Oh yea, I forgot to mention that the Rapala is now stuck to my paddle jacket and the sharks tail! The shark is tied off to the deck of my boat (which is underwater) and now I am pretty much screwed.  I have no way to kill it as my bat and knife are who knows where so I just sit there and laugh as my bro swims around trying to get back on his yak.  Just then a PBer (Pukahad) comes by and I am able to whistle/wave him over.  They are super cool and start laughing and taking pictures.  We cut the rope that holds it to the yak and tie it off to his rail.  Now the shark is secure so I jump back in the water, flip my yak and climb back onto my yaks deck.  The PBer gaffs the shark in the head, gives me a knife and I cut itís throat to bleed it out and of coarse kill it.  After letting it bleed out for like 5 minutes we transfer it onto my deck I tie it off to my bar and lay it between my legs.  The PBers take off and my brother and I just look at each other like what the heck just happened.  Oh yea, as the PBer is about to leave he says "Did you hear about the white shark they caught off of Hermosa?"  Just what I wanted to think about as a dragged the bleeding fish for two miles.  

We then start the slow trudge back to the harbor with a lot of water in our hulls and one thresher on my deck.  Every so often I would feel like I was gonna roll my boat.  I thought it was the weight of the shark but I had my bro pop my hatch and it was very full of water.  Fortunately he always brings his hand pump and it was one of the items we did not loose.  He pumped out what seemed like 10 gallons of water from my hull.  I guess the seals on my Scupper Pro TW need a bit of work.  We just talked and laughed the whole way back.  Every so often I would look back to see if there was a large fin following.  

Now the serious part.  I am 34 years old and was born and raised in Hawaii, living there for over 25 years.  I have fished and surfed for as long a I can remember.  I am extremely confident in the ocean and can read it like a map.  I have also been kayak fishing for 5 years.  In those 5 years I have only dumped my kayak about 5 times. All were wave related during ladings and have never lost more than a gaff off my yak.  I thought myself not to be lucky, just pretty knowledgeable, comfortable and cautious.  I still feel this way, however this was a major wake up call that I am very grateful for.  And because of this, I am making some changes to the way I rig and fish.  This fish was only a 60lb pup and look at what happened.  Were it any larger, this may not have turned out so well.  

Here is what I have learned and what I will change. 

  • LANDING BIG FISH (especially threshers) ON A KAYAK IS SERIOUS S#%T and  you better know what you are doing or things can go very wrong very fast.  If I hook another I am not sure yet if I will try and land it.
  • Tether all your rods!!  I used to do it but did not like the tethers getting in the way, now I feel very different.
  • Make anything electrical totally waterproof or it will get fried, especially battery boxes.
  • Bring a pump, if we did not have one I may have had to climb on with my bro and have him tow my boat back
  • DO NOT FISH ALONE, especially for big fish, and use radios to stay in communication. Hitting the bay for some spotties is one thing but trolling a mack on #30+ solo is asking for it.
  • Practice self rescue, I had no issue with flipping and remounting my yak but I could see how this could cost someone their life.

Now the loss report.  This is just for me.  I'm not sure on my brother's losses.

  • Daiwa SL20 with custom Calstar 700L rod
  • Shimano Baitrunner 4500 with $50 no name rod
  • Shimano Corsair 400 with St. Croix rod
  • Shimano TLD 20/40 with Sabre rod (this one caught the fish)
  • Cheap net
  • Knife
  • Battery and Timer Switch still need to be tested but seem to be fried
  • Rod Holder

Sorry for the long story.  I hope you all enjoyed the read and learned something at my expense.  Boy what an expense!

Harry "kauaiguy" Antipala