On the afternoon of Jan. 19, Capt. Joey Davis had just wrapped up a successful day of tuna fishing near the East Lump, and with only a single client onboard, was enjoying a free show as 20 to 30 yellowfin and blackfin knifed through a slick.
With almost 300 pounds of tuna already on ice, Davis got a call from his buddy, Capt. Will Bradford, who had also just wrapped up his limit less than 100 yards away.
“He said he had a big mako swimming next to his boat, and asked me if I wanted to come fool with it,” said Davis, with Voodoo Fishing Charters out of Venice.
Up for the challenge, he guided his 36-foot Contender over to the spot about 32 miles out of Pass-A-Loutre in 250 feet of water. As he quickly put together a mako rig, the big shark vanished — but not for long.
“They’re really curious fish. All of a sudden, it looked like the boogeyman showed up,” Davis said with a chuckle. “All the tunas were cruising through the slick, and then they all darted in opposite directions. They just disappeared.
“He came from right under the boat. He rolled up with his gills flared and his pectoral fins flared out. It was awesome.”
Davis had rigged up a leader with 30 feet of 900-pound cable and a 22/0 Mustad J hook. That was crimped to a swivel attached to 80-pound Berkley ProSpec braid that was spooled to a Penn International 30 reel on a 6 ½-foot bent-butt Crowder rod.
His first two offerings — a small piece of bonita followed up by half a bonita — were ignored by the shark. Then he literally cut a 30-pound king mackerel in half, hooked it through the tail and plopped it over the side about 3-feet away from the boat.
“As soon as it hit the water, he just inhaled it,” Davis said. “It looked like you popping a piece of popcorn chicken in your mouth, he was so big. He swam around the transom and never knew he was hooked.
“So I set the hook and he darted to the back of the boat, breached and then jumped. He flipped end over end twice in the air.”
Gassed from already reeling in three tuna that day, his client passed on fighting the shark, so Davis handed the rod to his mate, Kyle Chapman, and then started driving the boat.
The battle with Chapman lasted only 20 minutes, and with the nearly 10-foot long shark finally subdued, Davis faced his next challenge for the day.
“Pitching the bait and getting him on the tail rope wasn’t really the difficult endeavor,” Davis said. “Getting him in the boat was the hard part.”
With the help of a couple of mates from another nearby boat, five men gaffed the shark, got its head up on the transom and finally drug it into the boat.
With that, Davis had finally gotten his first mako onboard.
"I've hooked a few before, but something always seems to go wrong," he said. "I almost felt cursed."
Then he headed back for the almost 60-mile trip to Venice Marina, where the shark tipped the scales at 478 pounds.
“Most sharks secrete urine through their skin, but a mako doesn’t,” Davis said. “So they’re actually really good to eat. It’s a firm, dense meat. Personally, I think it’s very similar to pork — it’s really good.”
At 478 pounds, the big shark would have been the No. 4-ranked mako in the state if certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, but Davis didn’t consider the record books and went about his business cleaning the giant.
“The slabs of meat coming off it were 2 feet wide, so my client wanted a couple of bags but couldn’t take all of it,” Davis said. “So I started walking around the marina asking who wanted some, and I gave some to other peoples’ customers, to the people upstairs and then I saw where you could make a donation to Feed the Hungry.
“We probably ended up donating 80 percent of that shark because it was going to go to waste. We kept a little for ourselves, and we fed 10 different people — plus what we donated to Feed the Hungry.”
Davis kept the shark’s head, and plans to do a jaw mount to commemorate his first-ever mako.
Tuna fishing — and the chance for another big shark — should be good for about the next eight weeks, he said.
“Tuna should be in close on the Lumps through March,” Davis said. “As long as those tunas are on the Lump, the makos will be right there with them. They coexist.”