Time for a Tope

P1010338If you happen to be a shark and you want a nice quiet life away from the risk of being netted, hooked or harpooned, you could do worse than choose the North Cornwall coast. It’s just too hostile for any coordinated type of fishing activity. The few fishing boats that sneak out of Boscastle and Bude during a weather window are soon sneaking back into shelter of their harbours again.

Good for gannets though
Good for gannets though
....and Manx Shearwaters
….and Manx Shearwaters

And when it comes to the sort of prolonged period of calm that is required for a shark-fishing session from a kayak, it’s probably quicker to wait for the next solar eclipse. (here’s the last one, by the way, a couple of months ago.

Solar eclipse , Holsworthy style
Solar eclipse , Holsworthy style


This summer the sea conditions have been particularly bad.Almost continuously windy, and when the weather does pause for an intake of breath, the residual swell still prevents any kind of relaxed launch from a beach that will not dose everything and everybody in huge quantities of salt water.

So all fish that are vulnerable to a couple of inept kayak-fishermen have been quite safe….up until now.

I really don’t know what I am talking about when it comes to kayak shark-fishing, but I get the impression that Tope appear in North Cornish waters in May and June, then disappear in July, and the come back again in August and September. Maybe I read this somewhere, but I do seem to remember that in previous years I have spent quite a lot of time drifting about in July and not catching a lot.

Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers. We had the promise of a day of light winds and a mere three foot swell and 20 degrees. We were off!

With absolute minimal fishing tackle as usual. I can’t stand the faff of complicated gear, fishfinders and boxes laden with clobber that would probably sink our double kayak anyway.

One rod and spinning reel each, 30 lb line, plus a wire trace and massive hook.

We adopted the same tactic as last year. I was the engine in the back seat with the paddle. Son Henry was in the front seat armed with fishing rod and portion of chocolate cake.

Hi carb cake
Hi carb cake

First we had to catch a mackerel as bait. Why is this so difficult?. If you don’t want to catch a mackerel they will come in by the bucketload, but as soon as the pressure is on the sea seems to be devoid of anything even vaguely mackerelly.

However at last, after nearly two hours of paddling , Henry pulled up a stick of four decent mackerel. Perfect. They were soon converted into mackerel flappers and legered to the bottom, and the long wait began. The ‘set up’ was as good as I could have hoped as we had paddled three or four miles into a lightish head wind, and so would now be pushed back up the coast towards Bude and hopefully be level with our launch beach after three or fours hours drifting, by which time we would either be bored stiff, or hopefully had a thrilling shark-style encounter.The odds were very heavily stacked towards total failure, as there just didn’t seem to be a lot of fish about.

And so we drifted.Total silence apart from the single ‘piff’ of a porpoise which I glimpsed once and then, in typical porpoise-style, was gone.

poised to strike
poised to strike

And we drifted. And Hezzer fell asleep . Even more intense silence. Apart from the distant constant roar of the waves crashing on the rocks on the shore a mile away.

Being an ex-trainspotter and ongoing birdwatcher I thought my threshold of boredom was very high, so I was quite surprised that I was the first one to ‘crack’.Maybe it was because Henry was asleep  I reeled in my mackerel and their was not so much as a hint of a nibble on it. So I converted to a quick bit of bottom fishing with feathers and rapidly hauled up a couple of tiny whitihg.

So small in fact that I immediately reverted to using the mackerel as bait as waiting in the vain hope to catch a whopping fish was going to be more fun than reeling in tiddlers that you can’t even tell are on the end of your line.

We made lunch last as long as possible. And tea. Then started to discuss reeling in as we drew level with our launch beach.

Four hours without a single tug or rattle on our rods.

Suddenly the tip of my rod leapt as something violently  worried the bait. Then nothing momentarily until it tore off wth Hezzer’s line. Are you sure it’s not the bottom? Absolutely not. The rod tip was leaping about all over the place.Our adrenaline levels rocketed from zero to danger level in a fraction of a second. As line continued to be poured out of Hezzer’s reel, he worried that it would completely run out.

mega -action
mega -action

But then the fish halted and Henry pointed the rod to the front of the kayak so the shark could pull us a long for a bit to tire it out. This is where shark-fishing from a kayak is a bit more ‘forgiving ‘ than from a boat…..a mighty tug from a fish will be cushioned by movement of the kayak and so lines are less likely to break.

Tope appearing from the depths
Tope appearing from the depths

After a very satisfactory struggle to haul the Tope up from the depths we both started to peer over into the clear blue water to catch a glimpse of the fish. As usual it seemed absolutely enormous and as usual dived again when it caught a glimpse of us. This scenario was repeated at our first attempt to get it on board and we got a bit of a soaking from thrashing fins. I was more concerned than previous similar efforts that one of us was going to get tangled up in the wire trace as the fish tried to swivel. Must be a sign of getter older. I was also a bit concerned about getting bitten. The back seat of a double kayak is quite a cosy place to share with a five foot fish with a potential attitude issue.

....result.....50+lbs Tope
….result…..50+lbs Tope

At last in it came, and the hooked was quite easily removed from the corner of its mouth. Getting Hezzer to rotate in his seat and passing him the Tope for the photo was probably the most challenging manoeuvre of the afternoon but once accomplished successfully we gently lowered the fish back into the water and it swam off vertically downwards apparently  neither shaken nor stirred.

It can certainly relax for a while as there is no prospect of it being hooked again for at least a couple of weeks with the impending return of wind and swell making the sea a no-go area for kayak fishing.

The only shelter to be found will be close inshore, in super-quaint places like this:P1010309

Or maybe this:

St Michael's Mount
St Michael’s Mount