Coming face-to-face with an airborne predator.
After 40 years of professional fishing, you would think one would tire of it. But for some reason I still can’t sleep past 5 a.m. – even when I want to. I feel out of place when I’m not heading out for a day of fishing.
I have always felt more at home surrounded by God’s creation than man’s. I’m not sure if it’s the spectacular sunrise or the sights. It’s so beautiful to see a bald eagle sitting on an oyster bank enjoying a fish breakfast. I love that dolphins coming up beside the boat for a good morning salute. Some things are predictable, but nature never fails to provide something new.
That’s exactly what happened one cool fall morning.
Jace Spencer and his boys boarded my Bayrunner for some big bull red fishing. The water bristled in a manner that’s hard to describe, a way that usually foretold a seasonal explosion of life.
Calibogue Sound was flat calm, like a mirror, as we pulled up to the Daufuskie Island beach in search of menhaden. They kept their appointment and, with a few throws of the net, we had “liveys” in the well and a bucket full of “chunkers.” Pointing the bow towards the mouth of the sound, we skimmed the mirror-like surface.
Minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a shower of fish leaping from the water. I turned hard to starboard and we watched as a school of mullet continued to burst from the water in unison.
It soon became obvious that several dolphin and at least one shark were playing havoc on the hapless mullet.
The dolphin were circling the school, picking them off. Twice we saw a large shark skyrocket through the middle of the school. As we neared the school, they remained on top instead of sounding like they normally would.
I decided some fresh mullet wouldn’t hurt our bait arsenal at all. I grabbed the net and loaded it as Jace circled back to the school. As the bow neared the school of fish, you could almost see the confusion in the mullets’ eyes. They wanted to sound, but wouldn’t. I took advantage of their dilemma and let the net sail.
As the net sank, the forward motion of the boat took the net towards the stern. I turned towards Jace and the boys announced that we had definitely secured some mullet.
That’s when it happened.
A shark measuring around six or seven feet and weighing 100 pounds or more went airborne right off the stern of the Bayrunner! He launched like a missile, eight feet out of the water, and landed on the t-top, making it shudder. The shark rolled off the rods in the holder, bounced off the engine and fell back into the water! The sobering thought of what would have happened if a hundred pounds of muscle and teeth had landed in boat broke the trance of awe, and we promptly headed for the fishing hole.
In 40 years of fishing, I never saw anything quite like that airborne shark bouncing off the boat. And, to be honest, as spectacular as it was, I would prefer to see sharks jumping a little farther from the boat in the future!
Written by Captain Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters
Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. The Finatic boat can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at 843-290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip. Trips depart from Shelter Cove Marina.