Fish Bait or Shark Bait?

On the road…again!

Afghanistan to Zambia

Chronicles of a Footloose Forester

By Dick Pellek


Fish Bait or Shark Bait?


The Belgian ex-paratrooper and the Footloose Forester met at Sal Island, Cape Verde under circumstances that are long forgotten.  It didn’t matter; the rough and tumble Belgian was coming to work for a few years as a volunteer with a non-governmental agency (NGO) at a location that was yet to be determined.  All that did matter was the fact that as we sat on a kerb in the sun on windswept Sal, waiting for the plane that would take us to Saõ Tiago Island where Footloose Forester was assigned; we quickly became friends and agreed to get together to fish (hunt) for sharks.  The Belgian had all the necessary gear and past experience as a shark hunter.

Fast forward to the time we next met on Saõ Tiago and a chance to plan a shark hunting trip.  The Footloose Forester knew the narrow inlet where a pair of sharks patrolled each day just before sunset, so we arranged to acquire some bait and go after them when they routinely arrived in the late afternoon.

Pierre and the Footloose Forester entered the water with our own masks, snorkels and fins; but Pierre had the spear gun for spearing fish for shark bait, so he was going to set the pace.  The Footloose Forester followed along with the net sack to collect the speared fishes we planned to use for shark bait.  All went well in mid-afternoon.  Around 4 PM we had several fish in the net bag, so Pierre motioned that we had enough bait and signaled that we should head for shore.

The steep wave swells of the inlet had to be timed in order to exit the water safely.  Pierre went first.  On the first swell that was tall enough to rise to the level of the flat rock we would use for extraction, Pierre deposited his spear gun, fins, and mask.  As the swell subsided, he had to wait in place for another swell tall enough to grasp the top of the rock at the tip of the inlet.  Pierre exited safely.



Backside of Footloose Forester at shark hunting inlet

It was Footloose Forester’s turn to exit from the water.  On the first set of swells, the water did not rise high enough for him to reach the top of the rock with the bag of shark bait.  On the next pass, the water rose high enough for him to place the bag of bait and his gear on the rock.  Indeed, there were a couple of people standing among the rugged volcanic rocks nearby, but the rock chosen for exit was too small to accommodate them and all the gear, so the Footloose Forester had to be sure that he himself placed the sack of bait squarely on the rock first.  On the right swell, up went the sack of fish, his mask, snorkel and fins.   

The Footloose Forester then treaded water until the next appropriate swell; then grasped upward to pull himself out of the water, just a few seconds before the shark we were going to hunt sped past him at full speed. Although the shark was within ten meters of the tip of the inlet, everybody standing among those rocks saw him make a sharp U-turn and head back into deeper water.  Those standing among the rocks saw the shark coming, but the Footloose Forester did not.  He had his back to the shark as he prepared to hoist himself out of the water and onto the rock as the swell crested.  


150 pound shark with chained hook still attached

An hour or so later, we had that same shark on our large hook and stout rope line, with a chain as the leader.  It took five people to haul him in. 

Phyllis Porter Scott
Looking Back With Mixed Emotions And Memories

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