Different captains have different methods of defense. Roy Taylor sometimes uses a .45 revolver, but the shark must be very close to the surface or the water lessens the bullet's impact. Captain Russell Young of the Sea Wolfe has been conducting a lifelong campaign against sharks and hates them with a purple passion. When sharks appear while a customer has a wahoo on, Young throws over a big hook baited with fish and tied to a 250-pound-test handline. He hauls in a shark, slashes its stomach and returns it to the sea with a choice phrase like, "Take that back to your friends, you bloody-minded creature!" While the other sharks are busy dining on their confrere, Captain Young's customer reels in his wahoo unmolested.
Pete Perinchief has still another technique for the sharks. "We put out a 12/0 hook with a six-foot heavy wire leader and very heavy line," he explains, "and we hook a shark by hand. Then we tie a gallon jug to the line and throw the whole thing overboard. Now the shark is gonna submerge, and the pressure from that bottle's gonna bother him, the same as a rod and reel would do. So he comes to the surface and tows the bottle around. Now he's got less pressure, but that bottle's still worrying him; so down he goes again. All this takes a long time, and the other sharks will stay right with him, and as soon as he tires they hit him, and that takes more time. Meanwhile, we're catching wahoo."
The alltime record shark story ( Bermuda division) belongs, however, to Roy Taylor, who is the sort of fishing skipper who collects both fish and experiences in equal proportions. Taylor, who doubles as an artist and shop owner in St. George, Bermuda, worked in his youth as an assistant under Louis Mowbray's father at the government aquarium, and so takes a keener eye to sea than most fishermen. One day he was trolling for wahoo when he spotted what looked like a small whale. He cut the engines and, cruising alongside, discovered that he had come across the largest fish of all: the whale shark.
Now, the whale shark is lazy, a plankton eater, an utterly harmless sluggard that attracts all kinds of sea life to its side and functions like a planned community development. "This one had suckerfish attached to him," says Taylor, "and algae flowing from him, and sea anemones attached to his back, and even a few loggerhead turtles swimming around him. He had a huge, square mouth and big white blotches all over him, and he was covered with scars and marks. I'd say he was 36 or 37 feet long and weighed maybe 20 tons. We watched him for a while, and then he spotted the boat, and he came swimming over lazily—they do everything slowly, or else they wouldn't have all those friends around them—and he tried to rub some sea anemones off his back against the bottom of the boat. I tried to harpoon him. I had a 16-foot lance with a rather dull iron, and it just broke off on his skin. He embarrassed me. He didn't even budge. He could at least have shaken his head a little." After a while Taylor and the whale shark got bored with each other and went their separate ways.
For a span of 10 years Roy Taylor's boat entered more wahoo and tuna in the annual Bermuda Fishing Tournament than any other. On one noteworthy day in 1956 Taylor took out W.P. Langworthy of Philadelphia, Leo Martin of New York and Perinchief. Langworthy caught a 25�-pound blackfin tuna, then a world's record for 30-pound-test line (also an All-Tackle record). Perinchief took a 46�-pound Allison tuna, at the time a world record for 12-pound-test line, and Martin landed a 78�-pound wahoo, biggest taken that year by any Bermuda visitors. At one time or another Taylor's boat has held half a dozen world records.
Taylor fishes with such skill that his clients are lined up for months in advance, and one of them, a shipping magnate, makes an annual round trip from Hong Kong for the sole purpose of catching wahoo. Gradually Taylor is restricting his clientele and turning his attention more toward his landward pursuits, and thus the new champion wahoo skipper of Bermuda has become Russell Young, a sturdy, stubby man with short hair, a brush moustache and the outward appearance of a retired sergeant major of rifles. A voyage on Young's Sea Wolfe is an epiphany whether you catch wahoo or not. The first oddity you notice is that you cannot understand a word spoken by the crewman, a jolly Bermudian named Allan (Sandow) Whitecross. He speaks in what might be termed a "crown colony accent," a cacophony of all sorts of accents, including Tidewater Virginia ( Bermuda was first colonized by the Virginia Company), Jamaican, Australian, Cockney, Oxford and a touch of candied yams and sowbelly. But after a while you begin to catch on to him, and when he shouts to Captain Young, "Boot comin bahondos day-uh," you know that another boat is moving up astern.
By now you discover that Captain Young speaks a fascinating brand of English himself—a mellow pipe smoker's blend of the Queen's English and certain early Anglo-Saxonisms with which, it is to be fervently hoped, the queen is totally unfamiliar. When the Sea Wolfe leaves the harbor of Cambridge Beaches for the wahoo banks, she leaves behind a white wake of water and a blue wake of air. "I am making up for the days I have women on board," Young explains. He whistles and sings all day long, and tends his baits like a doctor looking after a rich patient. He jigs the teasers himself, and more often than not he assigns Whitecross to steer the boat while he takes over the baiting chores. Soon one finds out the reason for all this frenzied angling activity: there is a case of cold beer aboard, and both Young and his crew are fond of the beverage, but it is their inviolable rule that no member of the Sea Wolfe's establishment may have a beer until the customer catches a fish. So one sympathizes with Whitecross when he leans over the side of the boat, gives it several sharp smacks and shouts into the deeps, "Awl roit, let's go, dee Sea Wolfe is hee-ah! Open fo' business! Let's go!"
A few minutes later when a wahoo hits the port outrigger, chops the bait in half and gets off, Whitecross says: "Dat was just a hors d'oeuvre for 'im." Soon a fish is boated, and the long drought is over.
Now the boat steers into a patch of shearwaters, ocean birds making their annual migration from the islands around the equator up to the Grand Banks, where they will spend the summer. "Look at them lying out there," says Young. "They have to fly a thousand miles over the open ocean. They get absolutely exhausted, and they come down to rest. Sometimes we find them dead of starvation." A flying fish rides down the wind in that peculiar slanting motion that makes his kind look like miniature helicopters. No sooner does the flying fish hit the water than it is out again on another flight. "Look at that!" Young shouts. "There's a bloody wahoo after him." The flying fish hits the water again and there is a swirl, but the panicked fish gets off on a third sortie. This time it is short; a swirl and a flash of dorsal are its funeral rites. Another flying fish spurts out, and a greater shearwater, roused out of lethargy by the sight of a free meal on the wing, gives chase and takes a midair peck at the morsel. "Does that seem fair?" observes Russell Young. "He gets it in the water from the wahoo, and he gets it in the air from the shearwater!" This particular flying fish winds up getting it in the water.
There are other sights, other sounds, before the day is over. A school of flying squid comes by like a purple cloud, then falls back into a caldron of blackfin tuna on their feed. Off on the horizon a humpback whale, all 40 feet of him, hurtles out of the water and flops back in a tremendous splash: a dump truck trying to do the minuet. And now and then a yellow-billed tropical bird converts itself into a rock and comes hurtling down from its vantage point 200 feet in the air to grab a fish dinner. "They never miss," explains Young. "When you see one of those longtails go down for a fish, it's a sure thing." Now evening is coming, and Young threads the boat delicately back through the reefs, picking his way from marker to marker, while Whitecross perches at the bow, looking for rocks. Nothing untoward is going to happen, because Russell Young is a Bermuda captain, and he can smell a reef a mile off. In his skills and his attitude toward life, Young is a throwback to the storied Bermuda fisherman who interrupted the visiting preacher's sermon about St. Paul. "We don't want to hear aboot Paul," the elderly fisherman said. "He run his ship ashore atween cross seas. Paul warn't no criterion." Bermuda captains like Russell Young are the criteria. As long as they are around, let the wahoo beware.