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2018 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: HMB 11/5/17 Great White Drive-by  (Read 1618 times)

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Da roblo

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I'd like to share my experience yesterday at Half Moon Bay with a drive-by of a great white shark while crabbing. I would like to preface that encounters like this probably happen more often than any of us are ever aware and sharks more than likely exercise restraint over attack. I think this is especially true in my case since I was doing things that likely put me at greater risk and have certainly now made me more the wiser! I am a fisheries biologist by trade with a degree in Marine Biology and I am 100% certain of my positive ID, so here's my story.

It was a beautiful morning for set up and launch with morning clouds, no wind and favorable ocean conditions. I peddled solo outside the jetty mouth to the left about 0.75 mi in 30-35 fow. I found an area with birds working and huge bait balls of anchovies. I set a Promar trap first baited with Costco Salmon that I lost in a power outage this summer. I then proceeded to set three rings with the same bait about 100yds apart. I had about 20-25 lbs of frozen rockfish (ling, cab, verms) in two plastic shopping bags from my last cleaning that I was in the process of thawing to break apart and add additional bait to the set before the incoming tide was in full swing. On my second cycling through the traps I was only being gifted with red rock crabs and started to add some old procure in almost every flavor imaginable to some scent jars. Wanting to have the most fresh bait possible, I decided to speed up the thawing process by placing the frozen blocks of fish into the water. I clipped one shopping bag with a carabiner directly to the side of the yak and placed the second icefish ball inside my abalone bag that I also use to hold my crabs. Upon pulling the second ring I noticed I had amassed a pretty good school of mackerel around my revo as bits and pieces of fish flushed out from the mesh on the bottom of the ab bag. It was quite a show to watch them in the crystal clear water and skies letting way to full sun now. As a peddled over to trap number three with a good rockfish chum slick at this point I am sure, I set the crab line in the Scotty pulley and began to hoist. I felt a little weight and began to pull up steadily. When the trap was visible next to the kayak about 3-4 feet down is when I noticed a large object swimming just beyond it. I first saw the head just out from, but below the trap in about 5-6 fow but nothing registered as the trap quickly blocked its view, then I saw the dorsal and my interest started to grow, but not quite startled yet. At the same time I saw the dorsal I noticed the the tell-tale gray back and white underside, and then I saw the caudal fin with the unmistakable distinct upper lobe of an almost symmetrical tail as it came in to view and I started chanting out loud OH F--K! OH F--K!  OH F--K!  OH F--K! My first instinct for whatever reason was wanting to know how big it was. Since it was parallel to my 13ft revo the dorsal was aligned with my seat while the tail with the end of the kayak minus the rudder. The shark was merely gliding past me slowly at this point like it had just stopped swimming. It later seemed very graceful to me as the tail was not moving at all, but in the moment I remembered feeling completely helpless. I started telling myself remain calm and act. I recognized that the shark was likely a juvenile (8-10 ft) but I was unsure whether that meant it would come back for another look or test bite or simply move on. My next reaction was to drop my ring back down a few feet while I scrambled to release the heavy frozen rockfish chum balls. I had a similar experience off Santa Cruz a few years ago white seabass fishing when a large object was passing under me repeatedly getting closer in depth with each pass but nothing coming up for air. At that point I released all four rods with 4-6 oz weights to varying depths as a deterrent as I paddled back in without incident. Back in HMB I was able to get the first bag released, but it was now bobbing next to me, shit I gotta get outta here. Luckily I remembered to pull the ring in before I ran it over with the mirage drive. I peddled a short distance away from the ball and tried to release the second icefish block in my ab bag, but I could not back out the carabiner from the eyelet of my seat anchor and panic started setting in. I remembered that I had my SharkTec repellent in my life jacket so I threw that around my neck and was able to release the second ball of chum and peddle away.  My next steps were to start retrieving each trap one-by-one from last to first and I headed back to the jetty mouth. When close I made a call on CH69 to other yakkers alerting them of my encounter and to be safe. Once back at the mouth I remember feeling a bit silly and tried to pep talk my way back out thinking the shark was smaller than the yak, get back out there, but I couldn't do it. Even after hearing people starting to pull limits on the radio the vision of that upper lobe of the tail popped back in my head and it was right back on the nope train to F-thatville! I was back on the beach by 11am. My wife had texted me earlier in the morning before I launched saying I had left my Sharkbanz magnetic bracelet on my dresser. I replied with the scream emoji, Not sure what effect if any that would ultimately would have had but sure glad I did not end up in the drink for shark or panic. I was impressed that with one exception (cut-up procure bottle) I came in with everything I left with including the used shopping bags. Even under pressure, I thought it was irresponsible to leave anything (traps lines, trash, etc.) behind out there.

The whole three hour ride home that I managed to turn into five hours with a stop at Bass Pro and Tractor Supply, if I thought of the images that day continuously I was ok, the minute my mind wandered and the image reappeared and that tail flashes in my mind, I relive the experience. Something that is still true a day after and perhaps more days to come. I think the obvious is stated above about venturing solo, bait handling etc., but what I don't know is what was the intention of the shark? Was it about to attack? Did I deter it during the final seconds when I was about to lift my trap out of the water? Was the shark suddenly less interested in me and more the upcoming trap and deviated in the those seconds? I don't know, all I know is that I saw the shark, it saw me and we both continued on our way without incident.

Thanks for reading,




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Rob, Good to hear you're none the worse for wear other than some heebee jeebies.  I was out there a couple times in the evening this summer, all alone, and I had that weird shark spider sense going on as well.  There's no doubts the landlord cruises that area when you consider the huge amount of food there with bait and salmon and pinnipeds.


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At least we got to hear from you, old buddy!

Glad you’re in one piece.   Good calls out there, and thx for sharing your experience with us. 

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Thank you for sharing, I thought I was the only one that carries a SharkTec!  I've always wondered if I can deploy it properly at the moment of need.  Thanks again for sharing, glad everything is all OK.

Others had shared the 'eerie' feeling before an attack or a presence.  Did you get that feeling too?

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Really well written, my favorite parts were;

"Even after hearing people starting to pull limits on the radio the vision of that upper lobe of the tail popped back in my head and it was right back on the nope train to F-thatville!"

"Even under pressure, I thought it was irresponsible to leave anything (traps lines, trash, etc.) behind out there."

That's impressive!

Thanks for the clear description of the encounter.
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I was talking to you on the radio after this happened. I had a ling That I had just bled out and 3 rockfish hanging off the side of my kayak. Back in the boat they go. I pulled my traps and got out of there
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An annual reminder for us to be aware of who's ocean we are paddling around in... glad you are safe, other than possibly soiled pants, which would have been me.
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Thanks for sharing that. Really glad you made it back OK.

Salmon, procure, and 25 lbs of rockfish dangled over the side: you'd have to assume there was something wrong with the shark if it didn't come see what was making all the nice smells.

I'm excited to hear about the mackerel. Were they good sized, or just little ones?



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Crazy, glad to hear you are ok. I heard about this from Naoaki on Sunday, gave me goosebumps reading your post.
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sharkbait for sure!

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Salmon, procure, and 25 lbs of rockfish dangled over the side: you'd have to assume there was something wrong with the shark if it didn't come see what was making all the nice smells.

Don't forget the hobie fins flapping around like a seal.  :smt001 Definitely glad to hear you are ok.   Stay safe


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i was otw as well when you put that out, i didn't stay too much longer... lol. glad you made it back ok, a friendly reminder that we're just guests on the wide open blue.


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Thanks for sharing!  My buddy and I were out near the Mavericks green can fishing.  Gorgeous morning and day.  Though all I got was a starfish.  Fishing seemed slow  :smt102
Good thing the landlord never goes over near the reef.  :smt044
« Last Edit: November 06, 2017, 09:38:51 PM by Nolanduke »


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heard you on the radio as well while I was fishing out by the red can. i continued fishing but keep looking around for the landlord. i also noticed there were no seals hanging out on the green can. when i went to check my pots, i tried not to dangle my legs over for too long. glad it was just a drive by and you made it back safe!  i think i might have met you at the launch that morning (dune OB).



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Glad you're safe Rob! 

Not too long ago, one of my friends that's not on NCKA, hooked onto a juvenile GWS just outside of the Jaws while trolling for salmon.  I used to fish HMB a lot by myself....not anymore! 
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