Fishing Lines: My great white hope is to catch one
Sunday 13 August 2006
It's probably an apocryphal story. But I'm told that researchers once connected a load of Australian alpha males to electrodes and tried them on word association to see which provoked the biggest reaction.
It wasn't gun, snake, murder, knife, funnel-web, sheep-dip, billabong, taxes or Pauline Hanson. Scarcely a flicker. But when the word "shark" was mentioned, their pulse-rate graph shot up like an oil company's profits.
Many people will feel the same, I guess. It probably accounts for the popularity of shark programmes on television, and newspapers' obsession with reporting catches of "man-eaters" around our coastline.
The latest this week was the capture of a 250lb porbeagle shark off Sunderland that had become trapped in a trawler's nets. One account called it "a relative of the great white shark" - but only in that it has pointy teeth too.
Nor is it the largest shark ever caught in the north. The British record, which has stood since 1993, is a 507lb porbeagle taken off Dunnet Head, Caithness, in February that year. Far from being a rarity scaring folk off the beaches, porbeagles are relatively common all through the year off Scotland.
Another scare story was the sight of a shark fin about 500 metres off Seaham North Pier, County Durham, which allegedly so frightened one fisherman that he headed back to shore. This tale speculated that the shark could be a mako, which has a few convictions to its name, but none in the northern hemisphere. Equally, the story admitted a few paragraphs later, it could have been a por-beagle. Even experienced anglers would find it hard to tell the difference from a glimpse of a fin.
As author of the legendary Catch More Sharks, I know these things. You've got more chance of being bitten by a squirrel than being attacked by a British shark - except, that is, off the Outer Hebrides. For years, I've been documenting unusual incidents in this area. Typically, two divers went down to photograph seals underwater and noticed a very big shark, way bigger than any porbeagle. It started to circle them. "We didn't like it, so we got out of the water, fast," they said.
That shark was almost certainly a great white. They are not, as most people think, warm-water lovers. But wherever there are large seal colonies in the world, great whites will not be far away.
The sea temperature off the Hebrides is exactly the same as off Chile, New Zealand and southern Australia, where you will find the largest concentrations of white pointers. Seals are their favourite food (that's why surfers are often attacked: because they look like a seal), and the Hebrides boasts the world's largest grey seal colony. In the old, less enlightened, days, fishermen used seals for bait.
A couple of years ago, I put together an expedition to fish for them. Money, or rather lack of it, eventually scuppered the plan, though Sky Sports were very interested. The great whites are still there, I'm convinced, and I've got the pirate's map (X marks the spot). Now that would be a story.
Latest in Sport
Perth midfielder Ruben Zadkovich sent off 17 seconds after coming on against Wellington
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014 live: Lewis Hamilton heads towards second championship as Nico Rosberg has major engine troubles
England vs Samoa match report: England finally end losing streak as Jonny May stars in win ahead of Wallabies showdown
WWE Survivor Series 2014: What time does the event start? And full card
Arsenal vs Manchester United report: Wayne Rooney and a Kieran Gibbs own goal make Gunners rue missed chances
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...
£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...