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Great White Sharks : Fishing

Trophy fishing for large sharks was in vogue for decades, seriously so since the 1920s. In former years, avid fishermen caught sharks not only for perceived personal glory (setting records), but also to combat the shark “ menace”, particularly off the USA, Australia and South Africa.

In Australia after the second World War, catching great whites became an obsession to some, with Alf Dean setting the International Game Fish Association for the largest fish ever caught on rod and reel with a 1211 kg great white. Australian fishermen set chum slicks from boats using fish oil, blood or offal and often waited at sea for days before a great white picks up the trails and rises to the occasion. Once a shark comes around the boat guided in by the slick, it is in an excited state and hooking it is little more effort than leading lambs to slaughter.

In South Africa, trolling off the seal or penguin colonies was a more common practice until this became unlawful in 1991. On Durban’s South Pier, during, the heyday of the Union Whaling Company in the 1950s and ˘60s, large sharks were attracted into Durban harbour by blood. Shore fishermen devised a long pole and ladder-line rig to get large chunks of whale meat far into the harbour entrance and, after hooking a shark and playing it for hours, usually roped it up to the pier by its head. Most of these fish were Zambezi or tiger sharks, but many great whites were taken too.

In 1947, Mr.L.M.Bowman, a Port Elizabeth businessman, initiated the annual Bowman trophy for the largest South African shark caught from land. From 1948 to 1966 every winner was a great white except for one. The record during this time was a great white weighing 755 kg landed in 1953. In the early days of the great white fishing very few, if any, were used for food. Their jaws were seldom cut out and prepared as trophies then, unlike after the release of the film, Jaws when large, well preserved great white jaws fetched large sums.

As trophy hunting for great white is illegal now in South Africa, what is the point of fishing for them? For the expense involved there are cheaper ways to stock the freezer, so if not for trophies or food there seems to be no real reason to fish for these magnificent creatures anywhere in the world. In fact, conservation efforts are in place in South Africa to fully protect our great white populations.

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