The Florida fishing season is now in full swing, and the disciples of Izaak Walton are pulling in tarpon, kingfish and jewfish in the regulation manner, but for many amateurs freak fishing has the greatest charm—to pursue devil fish with sail or motor boat or bait sharks and gaff them is much sport.
To say the least such freak work varies the monotony of tarpon or kingfish angling, affords greater danger and excitement, and occasionally leads up to that champion of sea demons—a 14-foot sawfish, which will wreck a boat if it can. Some of the carnivorous fish weigh up to 5,000 pounds, or more than two tons, at least. So says Edward Vom Hofe, of New York, an expert in such pursuits. Mr. Vom Hofe captures devil fish at Punta Rossa and southward, his largest weighing over 1,000 pounds.
He says he finds them in groups of from three to ten, floating on the surface with the tide, feeding on fish for which they seem to fly under the water with a vampire-like motion of their huge wings.
Mr. Vom Hofe's views on the hammerhead shark would indicate that it is a mammal, like the whale, rather than a fish. A female which weighed upward of 1,500 pounds, he says, when
cut open was found to have 25 young shark within weighing from three to four pounds each. The hammerheads are found on the bottom. They are baited for with fish heads, the hooks and lines being cast overboard in a churn of blood.
Mr. Vom Hofe used a small stout rope for his fish line when angling for all kinds of sharks. Attached is a brake made of rounded wood, split in twain, which prevents the rapid running of the rope from burning the hands. The rope is coiled on the bottom of the boat. When the hammerhead is hooked the boat is beached as soon as possible, and the shark is worked toward the shore.
As soon as the hammerhead approaches within distance he is gaffed and dispatched. There is no finer sport than to angle for small sharks with rod and reel and hook specimens weighing under 300 pounds. One is fairly safe in handling small sharks if armed with a good stout fish knife having six inches of blade or even a strong gaff. The main thing is to get knife or gaff home through the throat, the vital spot, before taking the fish into a boat or on a wharf, otherwise they will fiercely attack the angler and may snap off a hand or foot.
Fish bites are somewhat poisonous, and a shark bite is dangerously so. A fish in snapping the hand will often leave a tooth point under the skin causing a serious sore. Immediate cauterization is necessary for such wounds. No person should go fishing for sharks without a stick of caustic (nitrate of silver) in his pocket.
In fishing for large sharks the harpoon becomes man's good friend, and must be hurled with deadly accuracy before tbe great fish is taken aboard. In Florida the rope is passed ashore if possible, and the shark dragged to the beach, where there is room to kill him or let him die naturally. At sea the tackle is rigged to the boom and the shark hauled up to it, where his throat is
cut. The wise angler who hooks a big shark from a rowboat, with no weapon but oars, discreetly cuts the line if he cannot get his tackle ashore. A large shark will, when maddened, attack a rowboat and smash it.
Such a shark, weighing nearly 1000 pounds, would readily make kindling wood of a rowboat with his tail and jaws.
-- Dr. Todd