Daniel Presley of Soldotna poses by the nearly 8-foot salmon shark he reeled in while on a halibut charter trip off of Deep Creek last weekend.
Photo courtesy of Gail Presley
Daniel Presley of Soldotna knows from his years of piscatorial experience that anything is possible when fishing in the deep, dark, fast-flowing waters of Cook Inlet, but not even he was prepared for what he hauled in last weekend.
To celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary, Presley thought it might be fun to wet hooks with his family. He booked a trip with Ninilchik Saltwater Charters and hit the water with his wife, parents and grandparents.
The boat dropped anchor just off of Deep Creek and baited up with cut herring. Before long the bite was on, and Presley set into something he knew wasn’t a bottom-feeding flatfish.
“I got a bump, then another, then it just took off taking out hundreds of yards of line,” he said.
When the fish finally slowed down, Presley set the hook and watched his rod bend as he settled in for the long haul.
“I fought it for easily an hour without ever seeing it. We were fishing in 200 feet of water and I would finally get it near the surface, and then it would take off on another long run. It was exhausting,” he said.
Presley refused to pass off the rod or concede to the fish. He persisted, fighting through the burning in his arms as the fish put him to the test.
“I had to real it in inch by inch, but I finally wore it out and got it to the surface,” he said.
When he saw what was at the other end of his line, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Rather than a barn-door halibut or, worse, a giant sea skate, Presley saw the dark upper body, white underbelly, triangular dorsal fin and wide toothy grin of a salmon shark.
“I’ve caught sharks before, but always the little ones (spiny dogfish), never anything like this. I didn’t even know these guys were out there. It looked just like a great white, but smaller,” he said.
The fish measured out to be just shy of 8 feet in length and weighed 275 pounds after its guts had been removed.
“It wasn’t easy getting it into the boat. It took quite a bit of effort,” Presley said, not only due to the fish’s weight, but also because sharks can get bitey if brought on board alive. With their numerous blade-like teeth, this is a serious concern.
A closeup of the shark's mouth shows why it's better to kill a shark before landing it, because they tend to bite once onboard.
Photo courtesy of Gail Presley
To be safe, the skipper of Presley’s charter shot the fish twice in its blunt head, then gaffed the shark and everyone helped heave it in the boat.
Presley said he was pleased with his catch, even though it wasn’t the species he had set out in search of.
“I’m much happier with the shark. Guided trips for these guys in Resurrection Bay go for $1,500 a person,” he said.
Everyone else on board kept bringing in halibut while Presley was fighting the shark, so although he didn’t catch any chickens, there was enough meat to go around.
“They all limited out, so it was an awesome trip,” he said.
As to what Presley intends to do with the fish, he said he will mount the head and tail, but the rest was sent off for processing. After the meat came back, Presley was quick to give it a go.
“The taste and texture were unlike anything you could compare it to. It was fantastic,” he said.
Salmon shark info
· Salmon sharks live in coastal and oceanic waters of the North Pacific from Japan and Korea up to the Bering Strait and south to southern California.
· As their common name implies, some of their diet is Pacific salmon, but salmon sharks are opportunistic and will also feed on trout, herring, sardines, pollock, cod, mackerel, spiny dogfish and squid, to name a few.
· Salmon sharks can grow to a length of 10 feet and weigh up to about 1,000 pounds. Female sharks can live to be at least 20 years old, and males up to 27 years.
· Salmon sharks mate in late summer to early fall. During mating the male shark bites the female to hold on to her.
· Gestation lasts nine months and in utero cannibalism, in which embryos eat each other, is common. Typically, four pups per litter survive to be born.
* Information from the Ichthyology Department at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
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