I made my first shark trip on a hot, cloudless September morning last year. The riffle over the Atlantic was no more than a breeze rippling a farm pond. The charter fleet and the Montauk Lighthouse faded to black spots on the horizon astern. An hour and a half offshore we stopped at a spot that Mundus has nicknamed Cricket's Ledge. "Perfect light-tackle day," he said. "We could try a small fish on spinning gear."
Bud Withee of Flushing, N.Y. soon hooked and boated a 44-pounder to put the first spinning-tackle mako on the record books. Anne Bowditch of Manhasset, N.Y. followed his example a week later with a 52-pounder. Luck rode with us the following months when I caught a 261-pounder on a salt-water spinning reel and 12-pound-test monofilament line. Temporarily it holds the light-tackle mark.
Makos have a way of ignoring?and surviving?fantastic wounds that would kill any other species. I have seen Frank Mundus impale a whole mossbunker (an oily fish that is ground up to make chum) on a knife blade that was lashed to a rake handle. He placed the bait within reach of a mako. The shark sluiced upward, grabbing the bunker. Mundus stabbed the fish. A crimson flood streamed from its gills. Undisturbed, the mako continued to feed on chum beneath the boat. It even took a second bunker.
One fish swam alongside the boat, curling under the keel like an oversize kitten wanting its back rubbed. We fed it a whole whiting on a shark hook. The fish picked up the bait and kept on idling around. The boat prepared for action but nothing happened; the mako refused to budge.
Irritated, Mundus yanked the leader, wire, rolling the fish clear over on its stomach. The mako continued to lie there. Mundus then sank the big flying gaff into the complacent shark. At this the mako started to run and was snubbed short by the gaff rope. The stern quivered with the shock.
Suddenly the angler's rod bowed. The mako had ripped the flying gaff through its body, tearing a two-foot rent in its side in the process. The fish was loose and angry. It stayed loose for three hours till a weary fisherman brought it within range of the gaff for a second try.
I caught a small fish trolling from the CMB at Shinnecock one summer afternoon. Prudently, rather than bring it aboard, Skipper Al Veltman fastened a tail loop and dragged the shark astern. A yelp from the cockpit half an hour later caused the skipper to wheel, a larger mako had come alongside and bitten our fish in two. It followed along, trying for the remainder. We had to pull the decapitated carcass aboard before the big mako would take a squid bait.
Yet, despite such cannibalism, I've seen six and eight in a school under the Cricket II, playing like children. One day we threw an empty pop bottle over the side. In perfect peace and accord they took turns nudging at the glass. You could hear the pointed teeth clinking as they mouthed the bottle. There is no telling how long this would have continued if Mundus hadn't broken up the party by tossing overboard a baited hook. What happened then was to be expected?but the game with the bottle serves to show that the mako shark is not only one of the sea's most savage fish, but a creature of mystery and caprice as well.