Please email comments to: Andrew
Please email comments to: Andrew
April 2017: Grabbing The Tiger (Shark) By The Tail
The Tiger Shark is two and a half if not three metres long. It looks sublime rather than threatening as it is dragged flapping onto the edge of the beach by a barefoot youth who has slipped a rope around its tail. It wears the colours of the ocean in paler and darker bands along its length. I have an urge to rush through the gathered crowd and cut the line to free it, to let it slip back to where it belongs.
Another barefoot youth jumps onto the creature's back rodeo style only to be immediately shaken off. Undaunted he keeps on, again and again. He is pumped with adrenalin and spurred on by the ooohs and aaahs of the crowd. As the shark tires, gasping for the comfort of salt water through its gills, the bareback-rider youth begins to get some purchase and whenever he can leans forward to grab the snout and pull it upwards to force the mouth open whilst a third youth tries to extricate the hook with a pair of pliers.
I am relieved that they seem intent on freeing the terrified thing but the hook is not coming out easily. Each time a spent wave washes over the shark gets a little burst of energy and thrashes around so that the youth tossing upon the back loses grip of the snout causing the one with the pliers to dance while a multitude of phones record the ballet of toes and teeth.
The crowd are delighted at the diversion. It is a Friday evening down South in salmon season but no-one is catching any. In fact all week I haven't seen anybody catch anything at all – except for the professional fishermen who describe themselves as an endangered species. They have caught literal truckloads, dragging entire schools from the water as they gather to spawn.
I fear it is taking too long. The shark is becoming quiescent, its eyes beginning to blank. I sense that the leaping youths are getting concerned too. At last the enormous thick hook is free. It can only ever have been intended to catch a shark. The youths combine to drag the now limp fish back into the surf. The bareback rider continues to hold onto the tail so as to point the snout seawards. I hold my breath. Several waves break before the shark even begins to respond and several more before it starts ever so hesitantly to head out to sea. The bareback-rider whoops triumphantly and somersaults as a wave carries him ashore. He cannot stay still.
I continue my walk. On the return leg the crowd has melted, the rods are idle and the youths are reliving the experience on their phones. I have no need of some-such. Images of that shark stay with me throughout the night.
In the morning the beach is again thick with forlorn anglers. Again no-one is catching anything at all. My fishing days are behind me but I cannot remember ever fishing in the ocean when I was young and not catching at least something, no matter how bad the conditions. How things have changed. No wonder the sharks are hungry.
I arrive at the scene of last evening's drama. The looped tail rope lies amongst empty drink containers and a ravaged bait salmon that is now bound up in a tangle of fishing line, ready to snare any creature that might venture to finish off the abandoned remains. Grimly I pull out a smelly plastic bait bag that had been anchored in the sand and gather up the detritus knowing that all day the stench will linger on my hands. I don't go for a swim. There is one angry shark out there.
Andrew 2 April 2017
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