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June 03, 2013

Majestic Maine's First-Class Sharking

Offshore fishing for massive blue sharks and threshers off historic Bath, Maine

On Fire
Our first flyby blue shark pestered the chum crate like a hungry pup but left without bothering the mackerel. A few minutes later, the balloon holding the shallower bait began to move. As the shark began swimming strongly, Spud Woodward, my better half and a coastal-resources manager from Georgia, reeled like a madman and struck the fish.

It sounded to 150 feet and hung at that depth, an ­immovable beast. “I wonder if he’s pec-wrapped,” Pecci mused, peering over the side of the boat into the green water. With the sea as calm as a just-drawn bath, we actually could see the fish on the Seacraft’s fish finder, marking a large red streak.

This was no frenzied blue shark. Betting on a thresher, Pecci watched expectantly as Spud kept the pressure on the fish, and it finally started rising. After 30 minutes, we saw the distinct, elongated upper-caudal fin.

Water definitely magnifies objects, so this shark looked huge. Of course, its tail doubled its body length to about 11 feet. As Pecci attempted to subdue the fish boat-side for photos, that tail smacked him in the head, knocking off his hat. On his second try, the fish swatted Spud in the shoulder and caught me on the thighs. We cut the wire close and backed away as the shark swam off slowly.

In short order, the blue sharks found us. But these fish weren’t the same lean, scrappy animals I’ve caught off the Pacific Coast. We had near-constant action on very respectable blues, measuring up to nine feet in length. Our fourth fish became so enamored with the boat that it stayed close even after hookup. Finally, it spooked and ran off 250 yards of line in an instant. The 8-footer probably weighed more than 130 pounds.

Blue shark No. 7 circled the chum bucket and the outboard as McKeever tried presenting a fly. After a couple of hopeful passes, it sucked in the feathers and hackle, and McKeever was tied into a potential state-record fish.

Rather than boat the shark and apply for the record, McKeever released the fish. At the same time, anglers on the Southport boat, drifting nearby, scored repeated back‑to‑back double hookups, including one blue shark on a Shimano Orca topwater plug.

Final Act
And then they hooked Goliath — or as close to that Biblical giant as anything we had recently seen: a 360-pound thresher shark. Sport Fishing’s Northeast sales manager Matt White said he saw the shark jump.

Ian Kopp, Southport’s president, watched as his line steadily peeled off the Shimano Tiagra, and then didn’t return. He battled the fish initially with only a rod belt for assistance, cranking back inches of line at a time, as White, at the helm, tried to help him gain an angle on the fish.

The hookup came late in the day, so as more than an hour ticked off the clock, the sun’s glare began to soften. Finally the fish wearied, and SF publisher Dave Morel reached for the leader. Morel held the fish’s head near the boat forward of the amidships line; the tip of its tail fluttered near the props. At full length, it topped 15 feet.

I wondered if Kopp could still bend his back. But it didn’t much matter: Judging by the smile on his face, I’m sure he didn’t feel it.

Don't miss: Additional photos and a video shot while fishing on location in Bath, Maine, and a profile of the Southport 29 CC.