The Porbeagle Shark, Lamna Nasus, is Northern Europe’s ‘biggest big game fish’. It is thought to grow to about a thousand pounds, and the All-Tackle World Record is a fish of 507 pounds, caught by Christopher Bennet, off Caithness, Scotland in March 1993. It has a number of different names; which include, Salmon Shark, Herring Shark, Blue Dog, Mackerel Shark amongst others and is endemic to the cool temperate waters of the Northern Atlantic. The Pacific Porbeagle is considered the same fish and has the Latin name Lamna Ditropis. In the northern hemisphere it is found as far north as Norway and Iceland and as far south as the north coast of Africa. It is also to be found in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a pelagic, oceanic shark and is frequently found near the shore especially during the summer months. It has been implicated in shark attacks in areas of the Mediterranean Sea.
The ‘Porgie’ as it is affectionately known, is a member of the Lamnidae family of shark’s which includes the Great White and Mako Sharks. It is a thick set, perfectly formed shark, easily identified by clusps at the base of its teeth with a white patch at the bottom of its dorsal fin.
It follows the huge mackerel and herring shoals, hence its other names, and is the main reason it is found close inshore during the summer months. The porgie is warm blooded and oviparous, giving birth with up to five live pups. However, they are only thought to breed once every two to three years.
PORBEAGLE SHARK FISHING MARKS
The porbeagle in the UK and Ireland is predominately found hunting in locations where the Gulf Stream has its strongest influence.
England has famous marks located off the North Cornwall and Devon coasts. Ports such as Padstow, Boscastle and Crackington Haven are good starting points. These locations have produced outstanding specimens in the distant past, including fish such as Jorge Potier’s defeated record, of 465lb caught in July 1976. In fact, a lot of Line-Class Records have been caught from these marks. Unfortunately, commercial fishing methods such as long lining is taking its toll on the porbeagle stocks in this area, as they are within easy reach of the continental fishing ports where there is a demand for the porbeagles pleasant tasting flesh. The South Cornwall ports such as Looe and Polperro also produce porbeagles but not in the quantities as the north coast. The English Channel and the Isle of White also produces good-sized specimens every year.
Moving further up the coast, within the last year, fish over 200lb have been taken from the Bristol Channel. Perhaps, we may see the channel becoming a noted porbeagle ‘hot spot’?
The Gulf Stream also has an influence on the Welsh coast and marks in Cardigan Bay have produced large fish. But to my knowledge, they have not produced fish as large as those caught off the Cornwall and North Scotland coasts.
North East Scotland has produced huge porbeagles in the last decade, the largest being the 507lb fish, mentioned earlier. Again, over-fishing has led to a decline in the species in this area over the last few years. It is interesting to note that these large fish were caught earlier on in the year to what would be expected off the Cornish coast. Maybe these fish migrate south as the sea warms up? Porbeagles do move considerable distances as demonstrated by a fish caught and tagged off the south coast, having been recaptured off the Norwegian coast. The porbeagles are fairly predictable in making their appearance at particular marks. The record states that they can be caught at various marks every year within a few weeks.
The North Sea is a bit of an unknown quantity. However, they are definately there and grow to immense proportions. How do I know this? I was visiting a customer at the Sunderland Fish Dock and I was told that they had landed two porbeagles in consecutive weeks. They were taken from salmon nets near the mouth of the River Wear and weighed 600lb and 400lb . A photograph of the larger fish was apparently published in the local paper. These fish were probably in the vicinity ‘picking off’ the salmon as they were about to ascend the River Wear to spawn. Time to get the rubby dubby brewing!
Some of the best marks in Northern Europe are to be found off the West Coast of Ireland. This area has the type of rough ground that the porbeagle likes to frequent, with copious quantities of mackerel and pollack, to feed upon. On inquiring as to the availability of charter skippers in this area last summer, I was told a rather humorous tale of man verses porbeagle encounter. Apparently, two local anglers were fishing for blue shark in Galway Bay in a small boat. One of them eventually hooked into a good fish, not a blue, but a porbeagle! The fish then proceeded to tow them around for over three hours. They eventually tired the fish and it was brought along side the boat. It was obviously too big to bring into the boat so they cut the trace. Estimated weight was near to 500lb. Irish blarney? Who knows?
To cover the varied aspects of tackle requirements in any detail would require a whole chapter in a book. I will therefore describe the main items of tackle, that are most commonly used for bait fishing from a static or drifting boat, which is the predominate method used to catch porbeagles in the UK.
There are a number of different types of rods that can be used; based on the line-class system. Rods with line-class ratings of 30lb class or below are what may be described as light-line fishing. I generally do not fish with such light tackle, preferring heavier gear to subdue any fish I encounter, as quickly as possible. Therefore, most of my fishing utilizes 50lb class tackle, and this will land most fish that you will generally encounter within a reasonable time.
There are a lot of quality rods in the 50lb line-class bracket on the market to choose from. Most of the large tackle manufacturers such as Penn, Daiwa, Shimano and Star Rods of the USA supply rods to suit most bait fishing applications. I would avoid the ‘pokers’ that are available, and choose a rod that has some give in the top section, a lot of back-bone in the mid section and which locks at the butt section to enable the fish to be pumped up to the surface. Rods with a fibreglass/carbon mix, is generally considered a good material in the right ratio, as this provides both strength and lightness. Rod lengths of about 7.5 to 8 feet is about the right length of rod to use.
Again, the major tackle manufacturers supply reels to suit porbeagle shark fishing applications.
Reels such as the Penn Senator size 6/0, Daiwa Sealine size 450 to 600, Shimano Tiagra size 4/0 have stood the test of time and have suitable line capacities of about 500 yards of 50lb line. The Fin-Nor Ahab and Big Game trolling reels also ‘fit the bill’, however, they are rather expensive.
It doesn’t really matter whether the drag is a star or lever drag system, but most people prefer the convenience of the lever drag for rapid change of pressure during the fight.
Monofilament lines are the type to use for porbeagle shark fishing. A good quality line from the reputable fishing tackle manufacturers should be used. Lines such as Berkley, Ande, Stren and Maxima are good quality makes, and if you are interested in line class records the Ande brand is pre-tested to ensure that it breaks at or below its stated breaking strain.
Most fishing applications will require the use of 50 & 80lb line class. However, some anglers like the challenge of light line fishing in the 12, 16, 20 & 30lb classes.
Hooks, Swivels, Rubbing Trace and Wire Traces
Hooks in the 8/0,10/0 and 12/0 sizes are the ones most applicable for porbeagle shark fishing. Mustad hooks manufacture three types of hook that are suitable. These are the Seamaster, Sea Demon and the O’Shaughnessy.
The rubbing trace should be monofilament line of approximately 250-300lb breaking strain. The length of the rubbing trace should not exceed 30 feet, if you’re interested in line class records in 30lb class and above. A length of 15 feet is more generally used, and is used to prevent the porbeagle’s extremely abrasive skin from cutting through the main line, as they frequently ‘twist up the line’ during the fight. The rubbing trace can also be ‘grabbed’ by your ‘fishing partner’ when the porbeagle is brought along side of the boat.
The biting trace should be a seven-strand, flexible, kink resistant wire similar to the type used on a motor cycle brake system. This should have a length of about 4 to 5 feet with an overall diameter of about 2 to 3mm.
Swivels should be of the very best quality, and the Sampo ball bearing swivel in the 500lb breaking strain size is perhaps the best that is readily available.