Thresher Hat Trick

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Posted by quietman on 13:28:24 06/29/03

By John “Quietman” Roe

I had been reading the reports on the various websites with great interest this week, as I do every week to decide where and what to fish for. For a couple of days mid-week it looked like Malibu was the hot bite on Thresher sharks, but when a friend of mine went there Thursday he only caught two very small ones. More important he told me that he didn’t think it would be back for a few days, as the water seemed off.

I considered fishing my home waters between San Clemente and Laguna, but things had been slow out there for several trips as well. Looking at the reports coming from La Jolla I saw a pattern that I decided to investigate. The fishing reports from La Jolla had been slow for more than a month, with no Yellowtail and very few White Sea Bass being caught. One thing struck me, however. A number of anglers had been bitten off quickly by what seemed to them to be very large fish. Even more obvious several had seen a Thresher either slap their baits or jump before breaking or biting them off.

The Ocean weather models also showed very favorable conditions at La Jolla, with very little swell and warmer water than my Northern spots.

I also just happen to love fishing La Jolla from a Kayak. It has an easy and nostalgic launch, just drive right onto the sand, tremendous scenery and life in the water, and a short paddle compared to my usual fishing haunts. So La Jolla and Mr.T became my targets for Saturday the 28th of June.

I launched in the dark by myself. Jim H was waiting for me to finish rigging, but I am very slow and methodical, and he couldn’t stand it anymore. I told him he should watch me pre-flight my plane before I fly it. That would really drive him nuts. One small wave rolled over the bow of my kayak and I was past the break. I headed straight out to the yellow preserve buoy and started trolling parallel to the kelp, as the sky became lighter.

In no time at all I had one of the most exciting hook-ups I can remember. My Penn 4/0 with 30 pound mono and a 12 foot leader of 100 pound mono dragging a Rapala CD14 via my old Sabre stroker starts screaming. I mean screaming.

As I pick up the rod turn off the clicker and tighten the drag in the dim grey light of pre-dawn, I hear a splash and look up to see a thresher madly airborne about 30 yards from me. In the ghostly light he looks huge and when he crashes down with a tremendous splash my heart practically jumped out of my body. It was great! Then the Thresher was off and running, hard.

It was a great fight that went about 45 minutes, and the thresher jumped three more times before sounding and trying to dog me. When I brought her to leader I could see she was a female and about exactly the same size as the 62 pound one I caught a few trips before.

She was hooked in the left corner of her mouth by the front treble and was quickly released to thrill another lucky guy some day, or just go raise a big family. Sorry the picture is so dark, but with the flash it was too bright and it was still very early dawn.

After checking the Rapala for trim, I continued trolling along the kelp line in about 60 feet of water and slowly getting deeper. What seemed like a very short time later the Rod gets smacked, and then about five more paddle strokes and the clicker is howling again. No jumps this time, but a nice fight with long shallow runs and no dogging me down deep like they usually do. This one took about 30 minutes or so and was slightly smaller, maybe 50 pounds or so. She was another female, and was hooked and wrapped around her right pectoral fin, a first for me.

At least it was getting nice and light by now, and the picture is a lot better, if you look closely you can see the Rapala wrapped around her left pectoral fin in the front. I extricated my lucky lure, and had to re-tie as the line had been cut halfway through by getting caught under a barb on the lure.

I had drifted very near the kelp, and metered some bait down 15 feet, so I decided to fire up my live well and make some bait. I easily and quickly loaded up on a half dozen nice greenbacks and as many Spanish, plus a smelt for luck.

But rather than pin one on right away I paddled clear of the kelp and tossed out the Rapala again and headed out on course, by now nearly abeam the big hotel. In just a few minutes I felt and saw the whole rod jump with a solid slap, then another. Then a long pause while I paddled and hoped.

Bam! Third fish on! Yah! This one immediately got my attention as the first run took more than half my line while getting my kayak up to speed following. It was really thrilling, my feet jammed into the rests; butt down tight in the seat and the rod jammed down into the hatch latch like the gimble in a fighting chair, which my whole kayak had become.

I knew this was a bigger unit! Luckily the shark seemed intent on getting as far from the kelp as possible, which was fine with me. We went northwest for about a half mile, into 180 feet of water. For the first hour the shark made long, strong runs just below the surface while the side plate on my poor 4/0 got hot and warmed up the handle.

At the end of the first hour I got the shark to the Kayak and grabbed her tail, another female. I could see she was close to 100 pounds, and thoughts of BBQ started dancing in my head. But I still had a lot of work to do. As I do on all my Threshers, I checked and made sure she was solidly hooked, made sure I was clear and then grabbed her. As usual she took off like a shot. I have brought four threshers to the Kayak now, and they all have come in the first time green Trying to land one like that is just something I’m not going to do. I have seen and heard of people getting hurt and/or losing gear trying to wrestle with green sharks. Not my style.

The downside of my more careful approach is more work for me. The shark sounded, straight down at high speed and I couldn’t stop her till she was down 170 feet, just 10 feet or so off the bottom. For the next hour or so I slowly and painfully fought her back up. I used the time to stow my electronics, get out my landing line and to drain my bait tank and throw back the mackerel. While doing this I could watch the progress on the Fish Finder, which was a great encouragement. I would get her up 10 or twenty of forty feet, and then she would take me right back down. But finally I had the leader once again.

I grabbed her tail, and put my landing line around it. I then removed the Rapala from her tail and attached the end of the leader to the landing line after taking the Rapala off and stowing it. With this I put the rod back in the flush mount with a loose drag and started paddling with the shark in tow.

I could only manage about one knot, and was quite a ways out, so after about ten minutes and no signs off life, I laboriously dragged the shark up on my lap, and put her head on the bow and her tail under my arm and behind me…eight plus feet of shark on a twelve foot kayak! As I paddled in I met another Kayaker, Aquaman, who cut her gills for me so she would bleed out on the way in, and he took some pictures for me.

Once I got back to the surf I had to be careful with my heavily loaded Kayak, but surfed in high and dry. My kayak is rated for over 600 pounds, and I am glad for every ounce of that when I am out on the big salty with my gear and a big fish.

Upon landing I was mobbed with people all curious to see the shark. It was fun letting them touch it and quite a few people took pictures of their kids with it. With a few warnings from me to stay clear of its mouth, you never know with sharks…

It took quite a while to get my stuff back off the yak and load up my car, with many questions answered and items to pack. Finally it was just me and the Yak and the Shark for one more picture.

I bring my kids snow toboggans to carry the fish home on ice, and loaded her into my SUV and just had to get the tail up out of the way for the drive home. When I got home I weighed the bled-out carcass, 87 pounds. I was hoping she was over one hundred pounds, but not quite. I have a fish-cleaning work station comprised of a door on two sawhorses in the backyard, and needed it as well as another twenty pounds of ice and dozens of freezer bags and two hours of hard, careful work. But I turned her into the most perfect 1” steaks from head to tail. Some people advocate keeping bigger sharks, and I could see going maybe to 150 pounds live, but not much more to be manageable and not waste anything.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, it was quite a fun morning on the water, and quite a lot of work as well making it happen The before, during, and after took a lot of planning and preparation as well as plenty of elbow grease.


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