It’s fair to say that a Kiwi trying to teach an Aussie about sharks is about as pertinent as teaching you how to bowl underarm – oops, did I say that out loud? All jokes aside, Australia has more, and meaner, species of shark than NZ but both sides of the Tasman share a lack of understanding of these magnificent fish.
There is very limited knowledge of shark habits and movements, and even the shark DNA database is very thin indeed. So it was for this reason we headed off on a shark mission to catalogue, catch and take DNA samples from as many sharks around the New Zealand coast as we could.
Now anyone that’s been reading these articles for a while now will know that I don't do anything the normal way, rather I always look for a way of bringing a bit of sizzle to the trip. So when I got a call from a guy saying he had a remote controlled camera helicopter, my wheels started to turn. Soon a plan was hatched that would make the attempt much more visual for our viewers.
We found ourselves on a popular beach in the far north of New Zealand in a place that has a few world records to its name for sharks. In fact, up until very recently the largest game fish ever caught in NZ was a mako shark caught outwide from where we were (well, just about anything’s outwide when you’re setting baits off the beach). I grabbed my paddleboard, put some big 16/0 hooks into a skipjack from the freezer and using the eagle eyes of the helicopter we were able to set baits very close to a bronze whaler that was cruising the surf line.
By the time I’d made it back in from my paddle we were hooked up. It was a strong, solid fish that was emptying the Tiagra very, very quickly. We’d hatched a plan to fight the fish in stand-up gear off the beach but everything happened so fast we didn't have time to get the angler kitted out. The spool was emptying so fast that we had to start reversing the rig down the beach until we hit the water line and then chase this fish backwards; and thankfully it travelled parallel with the surf-line. We got a certain amount of calm back into things after the first few runs, managed to turn the boat/cruiser around so we could run forward and eventually we started gaining some line back.
My underwater cameraman got into the water and the footage he got was unreal. With the topside cameras rolling back at the boat/beach, the underwater footage that got to within inches of the shark, and the helicopter buzzing around above, we got some incredible shots that puts viewers in the thick of the action.
After a very decent fight, we managed to get the fish up to the breaking waves. The danger factor went up a notch as I attempted to grab the shark’s tail and wrestle it up the beach. We needed to take two measurements, sex the fish and then take a DNA sample, all the while trying to reduce the stress on the animal and provide a clean release with no damage.
Well, best laid plans… Mrs Shark, as it turned out, had other ideas. A shark can bend themselves so far back that they can almost bite their own tails, or in this case, me! However, in the end we managed to get the girth and length measurement, clipping off one of the fins, and checked the sex. We had bolt cutters on hand and cut the hook through, which promptly fell out. She was pretty pissed off at that point but once she was floating she started to relax.
We tailed her with the underwater camera and the helicopter to get even more impressive shots. This adventure was so full on that it was only when we called it a wrap that I realised what we’d just accomplished.
There were a few beers with my name on them back at the house and we had an awesome night re-living the capture and watching the footage. You can check it all out later this year on Turbo Max when Series III of The Ultimate Fishing Show airs. Keep an eye on our website www.theultimatefishingshow.com.au where you can watch a snippet of the adventure or our facebook page theultimatefishingshow for details.