Holly A. Heyser
Tick tick tick tick ... My ears pricked up when I heard the clicker on the reel awaken. A shark? Maybe. Tick tick tick tick ... tick tick tick ... BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
The line screamed off the reel as the shark swam away with the bait. It was my turn at the reel, so I picked up the rod and pointed it at where the mystery shark was headed. Wait for it ... wait ... wait until he eats the bait. Set the hook and reel!
A little too easy. My heart sank. The shark was hooked, but it was no monster. Damn. Fishing for sharks in San Francisco Bay is a crapshoot. You could hook a monster seven-gilled shark, which can grow beyond 12 feet. Or, more often, you hook soupfin or leopard sharks, and this was what was on the end of my line now.
Strong, yes. Willful, too. But no great giant. I guessed maybe three feet long at best. Nothing like back east, where we used to lay into mako sharks off the Long Island coast. Makos are fast, mean, and tasty. Fishing for a mako shark is the only instance I know of in which each end of the rod and reel wants to eat the other. I've hooked makos larger than 10 feet, and landed eight-footers. One took me 90 minutes to fight to the side of the boat.
No, this little shark was nothing like that mako. As I reeled, the leopard came into view. Such a pretty fish. You can see why they call them leopard sharks.
Holly A. Heyser
Sharks evoke primal feelings within us. We are creatures of open plains who like to see everything that's around us. Deep forests and the hidden depths of the ocean frighten us. Sharks live in those depths, and some sharks eat people. To be eaten alive is just about the worst fear anyone has, and I've had a few encounters with the Man in the Gray Suit, as great whites are so euphemistically called. Even when you're safely aboard a boat, seeing one cruise alongside, staring at you with those doll's eyes, is chilling.