Part 1, by Brendan Evans

With Dean Brinn’s recent massive spur in my mind and the season rapidly coming to a close, I wondered what opportunities I would have, if any, to get back out on the hunt for this feisty shark species. As weather conditions looked to be changing and tides remained good I knew this would be the last chance of getting one and I would have to strike whilst the iron was hot.

So with the strong South Westerly winds forecast alongside some big tides I headed to a north facing mark I knew I would get shelter from these 50+mph winds. 

Upon arriving to the mark I soon realised that the wind was more in the West than had been forecast, making fishing almost impossible. It’s a pain when this happens but any angler will know that it’s hard to fully know what the wind is doing until you are out there in it. I took a close look at the water and seeing the colour and the swells I knew it would fish, so I hunted about and managed  to get some rocks to keep the rod stand from blowing over and resigned myself to fishing just the one rod, which was better than not being able to fish at all.

On the first cast, within just ten minutes, the line went slack and was dropping faster than I could reel! This told me straight away that the spurs were in! After a couple of frustrating missed bites I finally hooked into one, though with being 20ft off the water’s edge and fully aware of the huge swells rolling in I knew landing any decent sized fish on my own was going to be difficult and as I went through the landing process I lost the fish! 

Disappointed, I cast back out and hooked straight up! Landing the fish was going to be the same challenge as before and lo and behold, it was the same result as I lost it at the water’s edge! In the back of my mind I was thinking I should pack up and go home, as landing the fish was near impossible. 

Having baits ready to go I thought I would have one last cast. Strangely, given the almost immediate bites that had been present on the preceding casts, there was nothing for 20-30 minutes, suggesting the spurs had moved on. They can certainly move off just as quickly as they seem to arise, so you really have to make the most of the pack when it shows.

A big fish bait ready for a big spur

I had just started to pack stuff away when all of a sudden my ratchet went, grabbing my attention instantly as I looked up to see the fish had stopped running away from me and was now heading straight back towards me, dropping masses of line on the deck! After winding in flat out trying to get a connection with the culprit, I finally felt weight and struck in. I knew this was something of a good size straight away from the fight. 

Looking down the side of the mark to the fish at the water’s surface, I could see it was well hooked, so the only thing I could do safely in the worsening conditions was hand line it up this 20ft rock face.

The weight of this fish through my hand made me think there was no way it would stay on through the full lift. I knew without any doubt it would, once landed, be a PB. Landing it had seemed almost impossible with swells rolling in, but somehow I managed to get it on the deck! The adrenaline was pumping as I realised this fish was huge!

I ran to the bag to get scales, on an absolute buzz by now. I thought this was my 15lb spur that I could only dream of! She went on the scales and went straight to 17lb. I just couldn’t believe my eyes as she finally balanced out at 17.6lb!

After a quick photo, she was soon back in the water, good for another day. I couldn’t quite believe it and was inclined to pinch myself a number of times to be sure I wasn’t wrapped up in a very deep dream. Naturally I was straight on the phone to share my news to Dean who was absolutely delighted for me.

Conversation quickly moved to discussing the following mornings weather conditions, and with it looking largely the same, we decided to meet up and give it a go together, making the most of what would probably be the last set of tides to target these fish until they returned next winter. 

Brendan's new personal best spurdog of 17.6lb, what a fish!

Part 2: By Dean Brinn

Having recently had my own incredible spur of 17.6lb, nearly matched to the dram by Brendan’s, the weather and tides had all changed so It was a shame I couldn’t get back out straight after the capture to see if there were any other special fish in the packs congregating around the local marks. When you think of any shoal fish, and see such shoals, it’s rare to hold just the one or two standout fish. In fact, a shoal will often be predominantly of similar stamp, so when you find one big spur rod hours would ideally be maximised to find the rest.

The weather meant it wasn’t to be, but I was always watching the latest forecasts to find another window to get back out as soon as I could, before the fish went for the season.

A week later, I could see the weather was going to change to more favourable spur hunting conditions and, inevitably, it was time to get some fresh rigs made up ready. It was then that my good old mate Brendan rang me with the news of his new PB at 17.6lb as well, having grabbed the first opportunity on the new weather window.

I was buzzing for him, as this mark had now produced two fish over the 17lb bracket, which is amazing really because even a fish over the 13lb bracket has historically been a good fish for around here. It would be nice if this was indicative of increasing sizes for future years. We only need to look at how quickly the British shore caught record moved on over a course of years with the recovery of stocks to give optimism that this could be the case. 

As Brendan mentioned, the following day we decided to get back down there and give it a go. 

Another friend, Owen, would be joining Brendan and I and we’d decided to meet up in the lay-by for and early 3am start. On meeting, and after a quick natter about Brendan’s 17lb specimen the prior night, we were all raring to go full of excitement.

Owen got the second session off to a flyer with this double

It’s a half hour walk through the fields and up the hills, but it soon passes by when you are full of optimism from fresh reports of big fish in the area, so before we knew it we were on the mark and assessing that the conditions were looking spot on. There was nice but manageable swell rolling in and a nice small tide. It was time to get the rigs baited up and sent out! 

Owen’s bait was out first, almost in a flash upon arriving at the mark. He simply couldn’t wait as he’d never caught a spur before and didn’t wish to waste a second knowing the packs were about. With what seemed like hardly any time passing, he was shouting that his line had gone slack to the floor! As we looked over he’s hit into the fish and after a good battle we soon landed his first ever spur! We were all buzzing for him. It’s just as rewarding assisting someone in their own special catch as it is recording on of your own.

After a quick weigh, it tipped the scales to 11.12lb, a quality double for a first of the species. What a way to start the session! Though we have very little time to dwell on it, or indeed celebrate, as all hell thereafter broke loose, with us unable to keep the rods in the water at one point. No Sooner had one fish been released, we were landing another, unable to re-cast ourselves before having to scurry down the rocks and do the duties. 

I would like to say that whilst that day it all went to plan, more often than not the spurs can be really hard to hook, as they are so finicky with feeding. I’ve learnt over the years that by using smaller hooks you tend to nail them most of the time. I used to use a 6/0 cat fish hook, but was losing a lot of fish because the hook wasn’t going in the mouth properly. For a shark species, their mouth really isn’t that big in proportion to their size, so I’d soon scaled down to a 2/0 cat fish and nine times out of ten it was a landed fish.

The spurs teeth are like razor blades and I’ve been bitten off fishing 100lb mono before, so I always use a 7inch 110lb wire biting trace now, which works wonders. 

After some time of non-stop action, the light started to break through and all the action stopped almost like the flick of a switch. By this time, we were all rather glad, as we were all shattered from climbing down and landing all these fish! This is not restful fishing when it is this manic, in such conditions, on terrain or this nature. In the end we all ended up with some cracking doubles and with 13 spurs landed it was truly a session to remember.

Dean had recently set his own PB spur at 17.6lb too

With the rapid bites having stopped, we all decided it was good time to call it a day and knew the hard walk back wasn’t going to be half as bad as if the session had not gone to plan.

Now knowing that the fish were still there in darkness, I  knew I had to come back down on the night tide to see if i could get Ollie one too. After a bit of rest, I was soon back to making a couple of fresh rigs and respooling Ollie’s reel as he hasn’t been out much through the winter months. It was certainly time to get the little man back out and for those familiar with Ollie’s fishing exploits it will come as no surprise that he was raring to go!

After a slog of a walk, we were soon back on the mark. I noted that the conditions had settled down a bit, which whilst making things more comfortable did not make me anywhere near as confident as the morning tide, certainly not that they would be there in numbers like we had seen. However, we were there now and would give it our all and see what would happen.

It didn’t take long to set the rods, but after what seemed like an endless stream of dogs, it crept into my mind that it wasn’t going to happen at all. As the optimism began to fade, Ollie’s rod bent over, taking a bit of line, then dropped slack…Spur on! Ollie was like a whippet to his rod and he was soon setting into the first spur of the night. After a good battle she was landed and a cracker she was too, tipping the scales at 11.2 lb! 

Ollie’s smile said it all. After that the dogs were hard work once more, trying to battle through them, but perhaps around 1hr later the same happened, with line dropping slack and another spur on, but as they are prone to do, it spat the hook at my feet. That’s fishing though and, nothing was going to dampen his enthusiasm having landed his first one of the year earlier in the night. We fished on another hour but with no other spur bites we agreed to call it a day, very happy with the outcome for Brendan, Ollie, Owen and I over this set of tides. 

Ollie didn't miss out on the action either, bagging this fine spur