I grew up in the sea side village of Ballyheigue, in North Kerry which has miles of sandy beaches for fishing and Kerry head for rock fishing. My first experience fishing was with my father it was mostly rock fishing and some beach fishing. He used to make his own surf rods and catch Wrasse, Plaice and Flounder, Pollock and Mackerel. My first fish was a pollock..I was about 10 years old from that moment on fishing was a big part of my life. I grew up watching Rex Hunt on tv I used to love watching him in exotic places in Australia catching massive fish. I started fishing on my own when I was about 15. I loved being on my own just fishing. I used a cheap rod and reel and tied simple knots. My father had old lead pipes I used to cut up for weights. I used worms and used to catch pollack, wrasse, and even caught a trigger fish from the rocks and had no idea what it was…when I was 18 my father bought a boat and all my fishing from land stopped. I used to fish for Mackerel, pollack, wrasse, Bull Huss, Rays. One day I was jigging for Mackerel and my rod bent over like never before after a bit of a fight I landed my first shark it was a spurdog, after that all I wanted to do was catch Sharks I read everything on the internet all books and magazines I could everytime I went fishing I let a ballon float out the back of the boat. I started fishing for Tope and got to the stage where every time went fishing for them we caught a few I loved just waiting for that reel to scream.
I did some Charters,out of West Cork and we caught Blue Shark’s. I was with my brother Frank whos a fanatical Bass fisherman and does a lot of course fishing for Carp and Pike and he makes his lures While he stuck to land based Fishing I did all my fishing from boat.
I’m fascinated by Sharks,im a avid scuba diver also and in 2012 I travelled to South Africa to dive with them.
As luck would have it in 2013 an opportunity to go live in Australia with my Wife and kids arose and I went for it..I had a few months to wait for the visas i knew this was my chance to catch a big shark land based i was going to be living in Melbourne.
So I started looking around for where to go.i quickly realised that the place to go was a place called 90mile beach this is where all the big sharks are caught.I seen picture’s of massive Bronze Whalers,Hammerheads,I looked around for any info I could and I came across a page on Facebook called”surf fishing 90mile beach ” the admin was a man called Micheal Sommerville one look at his profile and you could see this guy was a serious shark fisher man I hit him up for in for information and despite have 5000 members on his page he Always helped out…so first thing I needed was a kayak to row the baits out 500m to 800m I needed min 24kg rod and descent reel.i had arrived in the winter in July and Shark season started in November.i bought my kayak went and to the tackle shop and saw a 24kg tuna rod and reel was a tld30 which I spooled with 100lbs mono and i bought double hook 12/0 shark rigs all set…..
November couldn’t come quick enough after doing deals with the Wife, I’d fish Saturdays when she was working and Sunday was Family day”happy wife happy life”.
Eventually November came and I set of on the 3 hour drive to 90mile beach, the place I chose was called Golden beach, that time I had a few friends who came with me, my kiwi and Welsh mate. The beach was full of gullys, you step off the beach onto 8ft of water then 10m out its up to you knees again. Big waves come out of no where it flat one second the next it’s like a washing machine. The idea is you attach two bricks to to a 20lbs break away line and suspend the baits off a float on top of the water, the shark takes the bait, the line breaks away everything comes back in except the bricks. I loaded the bricks in the front of the kayak(first mistake) and headed to the edge of the water the waves that looked small looking down for the viewing point now seemed massive so I waited for a break in the waves and went for it. I paddled about 100m out and a wave kicked up out of nowhere and flipped my kayak upside down. The bricks that were in the front came flying past my head, I was in the water with a big tuna and 12/0 double hooks washing around me and the thought of a Great White around me, the swim back to shore made me question my sanity….
I realised how people told me they had being shark fishing for years with no luck .So many things must be right, so every week I went. Some weeks I just sat on the beach cause the surf was too big other days I’d get out and my line would get all weed and snap off and I’d spend hours cleaning 500m of line down the beach, driving 6 hours, one tuna bait was $20 fuel, food, shark rigs$30 it was expensive days fishing. But I just kept at it.
About 3 months into it I was getting frustrated I taught I need to go fishing with a experienced land based shark fisherman I started looking on the facebook pages and who was catching the most Sharks that’s when I came across Greg Sembrie this lad has more shark caught that year than anyone else. I sent him a message and asked if I could fish a day with him and he said no prob. So I went and met him on Golden beach. It was a education to say the least..This guy had 3 rods going paddling in and out of the water changing baits moving his float around between 500m to 800m, so all was set we began the wait.. About two hours later one of the rods started to scream…. were On!!! He picked up the rod, I was trying to put the harness on him and just like that he dropped it. My heart sank but just like that he had another bait on and was paddling out again..now paddling out is one thing paddling out when you know their a big shark around is another! Again we waited. probably 20 min later the reel starts to scream ageing Greg winds and sets the hook this time he puts his harness on and fights the fish for about 30 min before giving me the rod so he could get ready to tail rope the shark.
I’ll never forget the power of that first big shark it was awesome..he landed it and it was a Bronze Whaler which is one of the best eating sharks their is Greg kept it and he and ate it. I’m not a fish person myself and don’t keep any of my sharks but don’t have a problem with people eating them. Greg keeps one or two a year. Greg had been using Gladiator land based fishing rods and okumas 50w with braid he could fish 1800m of 50 lbs braid, I was using a boat rod and a 30 reel with 100 lbs mono meaning I only had about 600m of line. If I hooked a big fish I would have run out of line before he got tired. The next week was my last week of the season shark fishing. I went on my own again set up my rig like Greg showed me and waited about 4 hours later it happened the reel started to scream I ran to the rod while trying to put on my harness the shark took about 100m of line and dropped it after a few F##ks I put on another bait and went out but that was it for the day the season over no Shark caught…
So I set about preparing for next season i learned to understand weather charts,water temperatures,wind directions i up grader my gear to Gladiator kor game rods new Penn Squall 50w reel loaded with braid so I could get out further and started making my own rigs i became good friends with Greg and we fish together all the time now he was as obsessed as I was about Shark fishing I joined the VDDF which Is the “Victorian dare devil fisherman” a name given to shark fishermen using kayaks on 90 mile beach by Channel 7 news when they did a story about them.
In winter I started fishing for giant stingrays. Here no one really fishes for them they can grow to over 400lbs and after many snapped lines and one broken reel, I figured out a way to get them I use a 16ft surf rod and a Penn 950ssm reel spooled with 80lb braid usually after about a hour their wings would rip through the braid and break me off so I used 20ft of 100lbs mono I quickly learned that trying to hold a couple of hundred of pound stingray on a 16ft surf rod for 2 hours was murder.
So I used to stick the butt in the sand and hold the rod half way up using one hand bending down to wind in every few minutes to wind and retrieve some line. You can’t fight a big Stingray he has to do he thing and tire himself out. A big Stingray Is twice as hard to land as a big Shark because he can stick to the bottom. To stop my bait being eaten by crabs I used eel, its to tough for the crabs to eat. I also caught some 7 Gill sharks till November and finally summer arrived.
I couldn’t wait to get to 90 mile. As it turned out the weather this summer was crap and the beach was full of weed and side wash and the days fishing were few and far between. So I was on my summer holidays and on January 4 2015 i convinced my friends Paul and Wayne, the kiwi and Welsh lad to come with me. So we arrived at Golden Beach and the surf was big and got flipped out of our kayaks. I was a long way out and a long scary swim to shore. We ended up sitting on the beach for the day we couldn’t even surf fish because of the weed, pissed off to say the least. I checked my phone and the next day the weather was the best forecast I’d seen in a long time, perfect conditions. The lads had enough and went home. I slept in my car that night. Waking up the next morning first thing I noticed was how quiet it was I walked across to the beach their was heavy fog but it was like a lake like I never seen it so calm before,today was the day…. I went to get some tuna from the shop and met Greg, he was heading home he told me some Great whites had been seen feeding at the back bar to be careful, that’s not what I wanted to hear but off I went. It was a cold morning with heavy fog. I was alone on the beach, I set my rod up on the sand dunes to get over the weed, set the drag enough to keep the line tight rigged up a 2 ft bonito tuna and headed out. For the first 800 m at 90mile it’s turquoise green water max dept 5m. After that it turns black and drops off steeply Greg told me this is where the “bad boys” hang out. The big great whites, hammers up to 1000 lbs, I had Always stayed inside the last bar. So I started paddling about 100m out I looked Back to shore and couldn’t see it due to the fog. The only way I knew where shore was cause I could see my line disappearing into it. I was unsure how far out I was, it was so easy to paddle that day no swell then I started to notice under my kayak the water turned black i had gone out past the last bar “SHIT” usually it takes a few minuets to get the float first and tie off you bait. I did it in about 20 seconds and paddled like I never paddled before back to shore. Greg text me text me and said “at the turn of the tide I’d get a run” about 11am the fog cleared and the temp rose to about 30c people started turning up and swimming and relaxing on the beach.
1pm was the turn of the tide nothing happened about 20 min later I was nodding off and the reel made a about 3 clicks and then nothing. I stood and looked out to see and saw my float drifting left, I taught weed had got on the line and snapped my break away. I was standing about 10 feet up in the dunes, so I picked up my rod, I had left my butt harness on at all times after the year before. Just as I started to wind it back in I saw my line shoot up off the sand and out to sea the reel started screaming, I set the hook and I was on!
I clipped the harness to my reel I was on and settled in for the fight. I came down off the dunes people started noticing the commotion and a guy asked me what kind of fish was it, and I told his it’s definitely a shark his face dropped and he started screaming at his kids to get out of the water. I told him to walk up and down the beach and tell people to get out. Its a fairly quiet beach so their wasn’t many in their but they got out. As I gained line on the fish I was wondering what it was every now and then I’d see a fin break the surface. I taught it would prob be a bronze whaler but as I reeled in weed built up on the line one of the tourists would pull it off as it came in. I was sure I would loose him as the line got heavier and heavier eventually I got close to shore and the fish was in about 4ft of water i handed my rod to a guy picked up my tail rope and walked out still not knowing what I had caught so I waded out and a little wave washed over him and I seen that unmistakable black eye of a Great White Shark a Juvenal of about 6/7 ft.
Now these are a protected species and the law says once you identify its a white shark you must cut the line but I had double hooks in him and I wanted to remove them so I tail roped him and dragged him to shore I removed the hooks took a few pics and dragged him into the water i held him for a minuet to get the water flowing through his gills and he swam off finally I had caught a Shark….
I talked to the lads in VDDF and we were looking to entering a few competitions next year their is one in Queensland and we might have our own here at 90 mile.I’d like to travel to Florida to do the blacktop challenge that would be the ultimate in Shark Fishing the best Shark Anglers in the world take part in that and next time I’m home in Ireland I like to try land based Shark fishing for Porbeagle. I have a spot in mind people said it can’t be done but the legendary Clare man Jack Shine did it in the 60s I know their is not as much fish now but their Allways that one knocking around you just have to be prepared to put in the time and effort required for this type of fishing…..