John Locker reports on the Falmouth Bay Shark Competition held in the waters off Cornwall in September – this year opened up for private boats.
Shark Angling in Falmouth has a strong history and a bright future. Historically there was a Falmouth Bay Shark Club that sadly drifted away like many Fishing clubs of the 80’s and 90’s. Ours saw a resurgence and reinvention in 2018 when a small group of local skippers sought to engage the new generations of conscientious, catch and release game anglers in the UK. With focus towards collecting vital species information for organisations like the Pat Smith Shark Database, NOAA’s cooperative shark tagging program and educating anglers to be stewards of the ocean. For the first 5 years the yearly comp was held between 2 or 3 local charter boats. This year the decision was made to open the competition up to private boat owners. This did face challenges, but I would rate the knowledge, skill and experience of some of our private small boat owners against any in the world. Capped at 20 boats the spaces were filled within a week by anglers from all corners of the UK – there is definitely a demand for this type of event.
Practice days and rules
The week leading up to the competition many anglers chose to arrive early and fish practice days. Stunning weather and calm seas saw good numbers of sharks being caught both inshore and offshore. As the start date drew nearer a sinister weather front moved in. With spirits high Day 1 saw fine sunshine but a building easterly. 18 Boats left the start line and headed off into Falmouth Bay, 5 charter boats and 13 private boats. The main rules were very simple. Barbless circle hooks, catch-measure-record and release, and above all BE SAFE.
Wind and tide together for most of the day made for good conditions and by the 17:00 finish time the fleet had successfully recorded 36 blue sharks and two porbeagle sharks. A good range of healthy fish from 80-182cm long with many more slipping the hooks at the side of the boat before they could be measured. The daily prize for longest blue shark went to Ivo Yordanov Stoyanov fishing aboard Anglo Dawn, skippered by Andy Howell with a fish of 182cm. The longest porbeagle was 88cm to Paul Harris aboard Seawatch, skippered by Nigel Hodge. Both the Wetwheels Southwest Boat and my own The FishLocker boat landed and measured seven blue sharks each and the angler with the most sharks on Day 1 was one John Locker with four.
As with many of these events, the social aspect really is wonderful. Without ego or agenda, it’s simply people passionate about a common interest. Sharing what they know and love doing – and a few beverages.
The second day saw the easterlies building even further. The steam out to the grounds was not comfortable at all. Many of the boats elected to fish up east and inshore to find the more comfortable conditions. A couple of adventurous small boat skippers pushed through to the offshore grounds and were rewarded with, wet 8 – 9ft short seas, a 2.5knts drift but a few more fish. The more extreme conditions saw fewer sharks being landed with only 13 Blue sharks and six Porbeagles. Many boats only catching a single shark or reporting many dropped runs from smaller finicky fish.
The best fish of the day was tamed by Jack Hodge aboard Seawatch at 194cm – calculated at 140lb. A stunning specimen of a fish. The longest porbeagle was caught by Gabe Taylor again aboard Seawatch. The most sharks landed was by the FishLocker boat with four blues and the angler with the most fish was Chris Goddard. Special mention goes to the lads from the South Cumbria Sea Sports, who pushed well offshore in their Raider 18 and were rewarded with three fine blue sharks – their first ever…. Almost every angler agreed that they would not have chosen to fish those conditions for pleasure – we were all battered; and after a good laugh and some hot food we slept well.
The third day was declared an inshore day due to the sea conditions – which had deteriorated further. This would be a competition for the combined total length of longest dogfish, longest bull huss and widest ray. Rain from start to finish, and strong winds, saw only a few fish recorded. The daily winner was David Rogers from the Wetwheels South West boat – very well deserved.
- Longest blue Shark – Ivo Yordanov Stoyanov fishing aboard Anglo Dawn – 182cm
- Longest other shark – Paul Harris porbeagle 88cm aboard Seawatch
- Boat with most fish – Wetwheels Southwest – 7 blue Sharks
- Angler with most fish – John Locker aboard The FishLocker boat 4 sharks
- Longest blue Shark – Jack Hodge fishing aboard Seawatch – 194cm
- Longest other shark – Gabe Taylor Porbeagle 91cm aboard Seawatch
- Boat with most fish – The FishLocker boat – 4 Blue Sharks
- Angler with most fish – Chris Goddard aboard The FishLocker boat 3 sharks
- Longest combined length – David Rogers Wetwheels southwest 155cm
- Longest blue Shark – Jack Hodge 194cm
- Most Blue sharks to an angler – Chris Goddard 6 blue sharks
- Best Skipper – John Locker – The FishLocker
- Longest bycatch shark – Gabe Taylor – 91cm Porbeagle
All of the proceeds from the competition after the expenses of trophies and tape measures will be going to the RNLI – at first count we expect the amount to be around £2000. A huge thank you needs to be given to all those who took part and made the event what it was. Private boat owners and charter boats from all over the UK travelled great distances to be involved bringing positive attitudes and good humour.
Over 50 blue sharks and 8 porbeagle sharks brought to the boats over the 2 days gives great data for shark scientists and 6 blues were tagged for the NOAA cooperative shark trust. This is an event I know will only grow for next year. We’re looking forward to it already.
A tribute to Dave Turner
One of the original skippers, who helped launch the first event, Dave Turner, sadly passed shortly after the competition’s resurrection in 2018 (regular readers will remember his contributions to this magazine). He was a great character and there now the Best Skippers Trophy is a commemorative shield in his honour – a fitting tribute.