Line peeled off the reel as I struggled to keep my balance in the rocking boat. I had the biggest fish I had ever caught on the end of the line and I was determined to land it. After a few minutes of heavy reeling I had the six foot fish next to the boat.
I know some of my fishing companions are saying, hang on MacLean, we know the size of fish you catch, and they are not six feet. Well, on most fishing trips they would be correct but on his trip we were after blue sharks and we had been boating fish in the four- to five-foot range. As the shark came alongside the boat the captain grabbed the wire leader and was able to hoist the fish on the gunwale where we carefully removed the hook, measured the length and attached a tag before releasing the fish back to the water.
The recent report of a blue shark coming ashore at Melmerby Beach brought me back to that fishing trip which took place a few years ago off the mouth of Halifax Harbour. I was fishing on a charter boat, Blue Shark Charters, which fished out of Eastern Passage. All our fish were released since recreational shark fishing off Nova Scotia is hook and release only. The only exceptions are some DFO licensed shark tournaments which allow a limited harvest. We were after blue sharks, although our captain, Art Gaetan, had hooked porbeagles and makos in the past. Makos can run up to 800 pounds so I was quite content catching blues. The six-footer we caught weighed about 80 pounds, still a pretty respectable fish.
Blue sharks, also known as blue dogs, are commonly found off the coast of Nova Scotia in the summer and fall. They are found throughout the North Atlantic as well as the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A strong vigorous fish, they often leap out of the water, not a common practice for sharks. Blue sharks reach lengths of 3.8 metres (12.6ft) and also reach some impressive weights. The all tackle record is 198.2kilograms (436 lbs). Blue sharks eat a wide variety of food items. The most common prey includes herring, hake, mackerel, codfish, haddock and pollock but they will also eat flatfish and squid. There are also reports of blues taking sea birds off the water and sometimes leaping into the air to catch them.
While blue sharks caught in the sport fishery must be released there is also a commercial fishery for this species. Blue sharks are caught for their flesh, fins and liver and the skins are used for leather.
Although there have not been any records of blue sharks attacks in Atlantic Canada blues are generally regarded as dangerous and in other parts of the world there have been reports of attacks on both people and boats. Shark fishing is growing in popularity in Nova Scotia as anglers discover the sporting qualities of these fish. Hope you get a chance some time to give it a try sometime.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.