Thursday, 13 February 2014

The 'Andy Griffith' Shark Interview.

{The Andy Griffith Interview} The Team at What Fish UK Smartphone App managed to finally get the interview that they have been waiting for. Andy Griffith is recognised as one of the UK’s foremost Shark angling experts and we have managed to get this interview with him…

Hi Andy, firstly we would like to thank you for agreeing to this interview for the What Fish UK Smartphone App in order for us all to shed some light on what it is you have been up to regards your angling. We begin.

Q: When did you start fishing?

A: I started fishing at the age of six. A friends Father took me fly fishing for Trout, he would cast and we took it in turns to retrieve. I will always remember the first take and I landed a Rainbow Trout of two & a half pounds, at that age it seemed huge. I was then taken onto Deal pier where we fished with ‘orange’ crab lines baited with lugworm and caught numerous Pouting or ‘Deal Salmon’ as we called them. From that point on I turned wholly to sea angling, still with my trusted orange hand-line; my best fish being a Codling just over four pounds, again from Deal pier. By then I was hooked and saved my pocket money to buy my first beach caster. I fished as much as I could when my parents were able to take me. My Father saw that this was a healthy hobby and was soon to book my first boat trip with a friend and his Father and since then I have never looked back.    

Q: Have you always preferred to fish from a boat?

A: I have always enjoyed the flexibility of fishing from the shore and the ease of fishing at night from the beach but I much favour fishing from a boat. I find the boat experience more of an adventure and I have experienced much higher catch rates both in terms of species, numbers and weight from the boat by comparison to the shore. I am primarily a boat angler.

Q: When was your first UK encounter with a Shark?

A: I encountered my first shark, a Blue, back in 2007 on board Andrew Alsop’s Whitewater out of Milford Haven.

Q: Have you ever been injured by a shark that you have caught?

A: No. It is already well documented that I regularly fish on board Andrew’s boat and he is, for obvious reasons, very conscious of safety and I guess I have learned from him on how to avoid becoming injured.

One thing has always stuck in my mind from my very first trip with him.

He took my friend and me to one side and said:
 ‘I know your excited about the prospect of seeing and landing your first shark but if you do get bitten whilst we are out there (anything between 20-40 miles offshore) you will probably bleed to death, you maybe lucky if I can get you airlifted off’.

It wasn’t said for effect it was just a wake up call that things can go wrong and to listen to all of his instructions at all times.  Sometimes I don’t think people quite realise how agile a shark can be whilst on deck – they require a lot of respect, particularly Porbeagles that are incredibly strong and can turn in readiness to bite rather easily.

Q: What species of Shark have you caught in the UK?

A: We all know that there are many ‘sharks’ including skate, rays etc but for the benefit of this interview I will refer to the ‘round sharks’ and exclude the ‘flat’ ones.
I have caught Bull Huss, Black Mouthed Dogfish, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Smooth Hound – Common, Smooth Hound – Starry, Spurdog, Tope, Blue Shark, Porbeagle Shark & Shortfin Mako Shark.

Q: Do you have to have upgraded rods and reels to handle these fish?

A: You have to have a quality rod and reel set-up. You need a reel with good line capacity and reliable drag. Personally I favour lever drag reels. I have landed Sharks of good weight on rods ranging from spinning class right the way through to 50/80lb class. Similarly I have used reels that I would tend to use for uptide work right the way through to twin speed 50 lever drag series. All of my big sharks (Blue 167lb, Porbeagle 235lb & Mako 194lb) have been landed on either Shimano Stand Up 15/20 or 20/30 class rods with Shimano TLD 15, TLD 20 twin speed or TLD 30 twin speed lever drag reels. 30 or 40lb Momoi Diamond mono main line is my preferred choice.

I think experience plays a significant part of landing a shark on lighter gear and it wouldn’t be something I would necessarily advise if you are new to the sport and targeting Porbeagles. Your skipper should also be experienced enough to move the boat if you do hook something special because a shark at speed will easily empty most modern reels. I have experienced sharks actually running faster when you increase drag pressure, and that does make your heart race!

Q: Are you a straight shank hook or a circle hook man?

A: Until July 2013 I had always used straight shank or J hooks as some people call them. The first circle hook I used was the day I caught my Mako and I am convinced that it assisted in its capture particularly keeping it hooked when it jumped. Bait is presented in a totally different way for each hook type and I prefer the bait presentation on a circle hook. Disgorging can be easier with a circle, less likely to be deeply hooked. I have had to learn the differences of a Shark taking the bait on a circle hook and it initially doesn’t feel right letting the hook tumble before winding down. With the Mako I didn’t have chance to think about the take as it went airborne on its first run.
I think each hook type has its own benefits so I guess in answer to your question I like using both and would probably use J hooks more.

Q: What baits do you use for Shark and do they vary per species?

A: I use a wide variety of baits both fresh and frozen. Mackerel, Pollack, Coalfish, Haddock, Herring, Whiting, Garfish & Cuttlefish.
All the above named baits will catch you Blue and Porbeagle sharks. I have probably caught more sharks on Mackerel than any other bait but Porbeagles do love big Pollack baits.

Q: Do you have preferred skipper/boat/location for your Shark fishing?

A: This is an easy question for me and anybody reading this will know the answer. Andrew Alsop’s Whitewater out of Penarth is my preferred choice. I fished from Looe for three seasons without any success before meeting Andrew. Fishing with Andrew since 2007, and when weather has allowed, I have attempted to fish twice a month between the months of June and October – on every trip that I have been to sea I have caught Sharks. My personal best tally in one day is hooking and landing 21 Blue Sharks. In my opinion, and one shared by many others, he is the best Shark skipper in Europe. He achieved numerous records last year, all of which are due to be recorded in a magazine article in the coming months.

Q: Would you say that there are Shark hotspots and better times of year to catch Shark in the UK?

A: There are many hotspots right the way around the UK. Most people will tend to associate Shark angling with places such as Cornwall, Isle of Wight, Milford Haven, Whitby and Ireland. Hotspots will be where there are plentiful supplies of bait fish. The traditional Shark season would typically be June to October inclusive. Early and late season are favoured for Porbeagles and the summer months for Blues. Porbeagles are thought to be in residence 12 months a year and will move about chasing bait fish. Blues tend to appear in the warmer months when the Gulf Stream breaks off and they swim with it as it moves north before they migrate either westerly towards America or south to the Mediterranean. I would target Porbeagles in June, July and October and Blues July to October. Fishing in October provides a good chance of getting a bigger Blue as they feed heavily before heading off to warmer waters.

Q: What is the biggest Shark that you have caught to date?

A: Porbeagle of 235.4lb in June 2013.

Q: Have you ever lost any beasts?

A: The most notable shark I have lost was on my very first trip with Andrew. It was a Blue Shark that I battled for one hour and forty five minutes, this being the longest shark battle on his boat to date. When bought alongside ready to be snared the hook pulled, I have the somewhat straighter J hook hanging in my garage as a painful reminder. Andrew estimated that Blue to weigh between 180 and 190lb. 

Q: What fish are you most proud of catching in the UK?

A: The Shortfin Mako or ‘Holy Grail’ as it has been described.

Q: Have you ever been given any accreditations for your angling achievements?

A: Yes, an instant Welsh Record for the Mako.

A Certificate of Outstanding Achievement from the IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) for the Mako.

A Certificate of Outstanding Achievement from the IGFA for the Shark Grand Slam.
The latter being issued as an IGFA first for me capturing and releasing three different shark species over 100lb in a day. An achievement never before recorded by the IGFA Worldwide.

I was awarded the Mitchell Hedges Trophy by the SACGB (Shark Angling Club of Great Britain) in October of last year for catching ‘the best shark of the season’ throughout the entire UK.

After the capture of the Mako I have been involved with magazine articles in the UK (Sea Angler & Total Sea Fishing), Holland (Zeehengelsport) and the USA (Sport Fishing), e-magazine article with the Welsh Tourist Board, e-magazine article with Honda (this was linked to Whitewater running twin Honda outboard engines), Shimano News, advertising with Ammo baits, BBC TV and Radio interviews & filming with SKY Sports for Tight Lines which filmed the capture of my PB Blue Shark of 167lb.
An audio fishing interview specifically regarding the Shark Grand Slam available through itunes and placed on record in Museums in London.
Winning Angling Times catch of the Year for 2013 and finally winning the Shimano Mission Accomplished National competition resulting in a guided fishing Holiday to Norway with Anglers World.

Last year with the capture of my 235lb Porbeagle, Shortfin Mako 194lb, Blue Shark 167lb I ventured to Scotland to attempt my ‘big four’ by capturing a Common Skate over 100lb’s. On Board Laura Dawn 11 with skipper Ronnie Campbell I achieved it by landing three Common Skate of 132lb, 157lb and the largest of 177lb. This equating to a 2013 season of four species over 166lb to one angler in a period of less than one calendar year. It has been put to me that this is a British Record as no records are available for these species being captured by one angler at this weight in a season. A magazine article is due out in the next few months covering my season.

Q: We have seen the Shark Trust mentioned a lot in the press over the last few years due to their continuous growth and online presence. Do you have anything to do with the organisation at all or any opinions that you could share without about them? 
A: Whilst I am aware of the Shark Trust I do not have anything to do with the organisation. Personally I think their work is important for public awareness of Sharks, some of which are now critically endangered. Amongst their work they attempt to gather records from anglers to gain numbers and species being landed across the UK – in one way anglers form part of their eyes and ears for information. I did pass on the details of the Mako capture as it was such a historic event and I intend to keep my own records, with a view of passing them on, of the shark species personally caught from now on in an effort to support their work. I am aware that they are proposing to launch an APP for anglers to more easily report their captures to the Shark Trust. I did point out to them recently that they should be open minded as to anglers giving approximate locations rather than specifics as we all like our favourite hotspots to be kept secret.

Q: What is your next target species?

A: The next obvious target is a Thresher Shark – but it will be extremely difficult and I may never achieve it in my fishing lifetime. I have to be realistic they are a critically endangered species and rarely caught, perhaps one or two a year.

To make it more difficult I will attempt to catch one with Andrew out of Milford Haven. If and it’s a big if I do achieve it Milford Haven would become the only Port in the UK to have the main four Sharks to its credit. Andrew the only skipper to have them across his deck and I would be the only angler in the UK to have landed all four of them. At the time of writing there are only two other anglers alive in the UK with a Mako to their credit, technically they are the only competition but with the other Mako caught out of Ireland last year there is a good chance other anglers will join our ‘club’ as the 2014 season opens and of course beyond that. There is a lot of pressure on Andrew and I to attempt this and we are both of the mindset to just go fishing and see what happens. We all know there are absolutely no guarantees in angling – we just want to fish.
I would like a chance to fish for Six Gill Sharks in Ireland, Blue Fin Tuna and Albacore either from Wales or Ireland. I have to balance home life with work and there is only so much spare time that I can fish but I hope to continue my run of success for as long as I can.

Q: On the What Fish UK App we currently have 11 fish listed under ‘Sharks’ shape category: Bull Huss, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Basking Shark, Blue Shark, Mako Shark, Porbeagle Shark, Thresher Shark, Common Smoothhound, Starry Smoothound, Spurdog and Tope. How many of these fish have you caught?

A: Assuming we dismiss the Basking Shark from the list as it is a plankton eater I have managed to land 9 of the 10, I need a Thresher to complete your list. Plus I can add Black Mouthed Dogfish!

Q: Can you remember any memorable funny moments that you or any of your angling buddies have experienced while targeting Shark?

A: Nothing particular springs to mind, Andrew and crew are a great bunch of guys and we always have a laugh.

Q: Question from a What Fish UK App user:
Hello Andy, what is (in your opinion) is the hardest fighting Shark species in the UK.

A: I will dismiss Blue and then have to decide between a Porbeagle and the Shortfin Mako.

As you may well know the Mako is the only Shark in the World described as a game fish, the fastest Shark in the World (being recorded at up to 46mph) and it is famous for it’s aerobatics, being capable of jumping 30ft vertically.

My Mako was 194lb and jumped once, we used the boat a lot to out run it and it mainly stayed on the surface. It took just over 45 minutes to boat and it was a real pressure battle. We knew what it was within seconds as it jumped, we knew if it was landed it would make angling history so I was under immense pressure and had to perform – I wouldn’t necessarily say the battle was enjoyable due to the pressure but I was ecstatic when I landed it.

My 235lb Porbeagle on the other hand was caught on slightly lighter gear with a reel loaded with braid, so I felt every head shake. It ran away from me, ran straight back at me, dived deep and then returned to the surface really quickly. We used the boat to move about and I walked around the boat three times as it kept changing direction. At one point when I was fighting it from the bow Andrew had hold of the back of my jacket to keep me steady and to avoid injury.

I am basing my answer on my captures, firstly both Sharks were male and at 194lb and 235lb not massively different. In my opinion and also taking into account the different tackle used the Porbeagle fought harder.

I have heard that Threshers are reputed to fight even harder than both Porbeagle and Mako so if I ever achieve that capture I would like to come back to you with a comparison on all!!

Q: And finally this question is from Stuart Smith, a What Fish UK Facebook page user:
In the interest of Shark stocks (Catch & release). How do or who do you speak to with regards to tagging your fish and recording this information?

A: I strongly support catch and release but don’t have an extensive knowledge of tagging. The Shark Trust are able to advise on tagging, appropriate disgorging techniques and guidance on safe handling of sharks for the benefit of both shark and angler. They guide on maximum times for sharks to be out of the water, how to support them and techniques for passing oxygenated water across their gills. They are also able to offer advice on methods of assisting a Shark to recover prior to physically letting it swim off.
I have never tagged a Shark but have naturally always returned them safely after a quick measure and trophy photograph. I have heard conflicting views on tagging. Whilst tagging does by its very nature record information for scientific purposes and stock numbers it has been suggested that if tags fall into the wrong hands it can actually promote long lining of their migratory routes.
I was interested to observe three satellite tagged Porbeagle sharks last year via a website - their journeys were quite incredible.

I hope you enjoy reading this interview and that it answers a few questions that assist and encourage anglers to try Shark angling – one word of warning, it’s addictive!! Tight lines. Andy

Andy once again, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I am sure this will make excellent reading for our users. We would also like to thank you for supporting us at What Fish UK and for letting us use your amazing Shark pictures in our Gallery. 

To view more of Andy's shark pictures, check out the What Fish UK gallery.

Thank you - Alan Shergold – What Fish UK.