Rob Choi
Rob Choi does battle with the man in a grey suit.

With all the hoopla around shark week and suggestions from good friends, I decided on my next target.

The next morning, Jay Brooks generously put his personal agenda aside to serve as a witness on my citation quest.  We drove over the prior day’s fishing spots and launched on the Eastern Shore.  My plan was to anchor up next to a deep channel and put cut baits out.  I’ve caught 4 to 5 foot sharks before doing just that.  But as we were paddling across a flat on the way there, I saw a big tail thrashing on the surface in 4 feet of water.  With an unweighted whole dead spot trolling behind me, I immediately paddled over.  To try to get a better view, I got up on my knees and slowed down when I got to the area.  Not a minute passed when a little splash behind me caught my attention.  I looked back to see a massive swirl where my bait used to be…  then the clicker screamed at a pitch I never heard before and it was on.  Before I knew it, I was on the fastest sleigh ride I’ve ever been on.

There was no up and down play like my previous sharks.

It was all flats and insane horizontal runs with unreal directional changes.  Their agility and speed can really test a kayak anglers ability to make appropriate adjustments during a fight and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

I almost lost my rod once, took a backwards sleigh ride a few times, and almost broke my rod on the gunnel twice.  The shark liked to scream off in one direction, then abruptly turn around and charge back the other way, leaving me guessing as to where it was actually going to end up.  After almost half an hour, I finally got a good look at it.  It was close to the 6 feet I needed.  The Virginia Saltwater Tournament rules states that it needs to be 72″ but estimated lengths may be used for sharks.  And technically, I can touch the leader and if a witness thinks it was 6′ or bigger, I can cut it and it counts as a citation.  But “close enough” just isn’t my style.  So I decided I had to measure the beast.

It took me a while but I finally got my fish tailer looped on.

Much to my surprise it stayed calm when I first did it.  But then all of a sudden it freaked out and I came ever so close to tipping over.

There was a marsh island close by so I decided I had to drag it there.  But the thing is, dragging something that big is miserable even for a relatively short distance… not to mention I ran the threat of killing it.  In my stubbornness, I tried for a short bit then Jay thought that maybe it was worn out enough to lift it on to my lap and take a quick measurement.  I attempted to it try it but about 1/3 of the way up it freaked out again…

From tip of the nose to tip of the tail – 75″ Black Tip

After 5 to 10 minutes of reviving it swam off nice and strong.

Citation #5: Check

Afterwards, we went right back to the same spot and caught several 4′ to 5′ blacktips. I know sharks are an alluring species to target, but if you are not used to battling large fish, I highly recommend starting with big stripers or red drum before tangoing with grey suits. It’s a different kind of fight.  They are extremely erratic and unpredictable with maneuvers that are difficult to manage in a kayak.  The potential for dangerous situations and bodily harm is very real.  I know I made some mistakes that I luckily recovered from.  I’m not saying don’t ever do it because they are a blast, but please do not take them lightly.

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Ric Burnley
“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.

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