May the Fourth. International Star Wars day to some, but to La Jolla kayak fishermen, it will forever be the beginning of the Wide Open Thresher Bite of 2016.
The gray, windless day — with ample bait and a downhill current — felt like yellowtail, so I launched the kayak at a gentlemanly hour, and made greenbacks with ease. A few sport boats clustered beyond the northwest corner, and 15 or 20 kayakers had spread out along the outer kelp edge between the cove and Boomers when the thresher sharks came crashing through.
Just like that, everybody was hooking up. Kayakers hooted and hollered like kids at the fair as large threshers took them on sleigh rides out to sea. My first hookup chewed through the 40# fluorocarbon leader almost immediately, so I re-rigged a fresh 4/0 circle hook and headed toward a promising bait boil, still hoping for yellowtail.
The whole time, 100-plus-pound sharks were leaping clear of the water, shredding tackle, and making short work of the local mackerel population. You could see their tails slashing bait, and the the stoke level was high in the kayak lineup.
I never saw my second strike. The shark hit from underneath the boiling bait, and then just sat there. I wound as hard as I could to get over it, thinking I might be on a black sea bass because there was nothing but heavy weight. Then the fish ran 90 degrees to port, nearly overturning my boat, and the fight was on. I felt the distinctive pop of Spectra cutting kelp as the shark swam big circles through the submerged canopy. I was able to turn it by buttoning down the drag and high sticking the rod with everything I had. It took about half an hour to get it to color.
Most of the morning’s other hookups broke off, and when it became clear that I was going to land mine, a few other kayakers gathered around to cheer me on and help out where needed. Without Lucas, Chad, and Justin, I don’t know if I could have managed. This was my first thresher shark, and Chad, who had landed a few large sharks, talked me through it.
I wanted to release the shark, which I estimated at a hundred pounds, but it was nonresponsive by the time I got it to the boat. Cutting it loose would have risked wasting it, so I decided to keep it. Chad, Justin, and Lucas all agreed to split the meat, and, with Chad and Justin pulling with their Hobies and Lucas on guard duty, we towed the shark back to the Shores.
On the beach, we realized the shark was bigger than we’d thought. I couldn’t lift it myself. I never got it weighed because I knew I was in for a long day. I’m no trophy hunter, so a fair estimate of 150 pounds is good enough for me.