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The First Mako Shark Capture - 14/07/19

One of the questions that always arises when discussing British Mako captures is how many Mako’s could have been misidentified as Porbeagle’s, before Hetty Eathorne’s 352 pounder confirmed they visited our shores.. This shark caught on the 25th August 1955 on her own boat the “LITTLE ONE”, skippered by father and son Bill and Jack Butters, was at first entered for a new world record Porgie.  The teeth samples requested by the IGFA to verify the claim came back as belonging to a shortfin Mako and the rest is as they say, angling history.  Most of us are familiar with these facts and the excitement it generated amongst the sharking community.  As anglers now had a chance to test themselves against the world’s most elite fighting shark.  

Prior to this capture Cornish boats had occasionally encountered large mysterious jumping fish that could strip all the line off the best reels in the blink of an eye, and would leave the latest state of the art steel cored split cane rods with a permanent bend.  What kind of fish were they?  How was it possible for a fish to out run the pursuer’s boat?  

The earliest account I can find of a Mako hook up took place in the summer of 1948 off Looe on a flat calm summer’s day. The angler involved was one of the founder members of our club Mr F. Lyde Caunter (no relation to our Brigadier Caunter).  Mr Caunter saw the fin of a very large shark gliding through the water, so baited up quickly and drifted down on him.  The huge mouth swallowed the offering in one gulp and the predator began to swim off leisurely.  Mr Caunter struck as hard as he could but before he could brace himself the great fish showed its annoyance by making seven consecutive leaps to a height of fifteen feet!  The angler was completely unprepared for such a response and couldn’t believe what he had hooked in to.  He was a very experienced shark angler, and had accounted for hundreds of sharks during his time, but he was totally in awe of this sharks acrobatics, speed, power and size.  This really was big game fishing the likes of which anglers would normally travel thousands of miles to encounter, and here it was happening off Cornwall!  He manfully kept contact with the shark, for all he was worth, until it leapt again after a 300yd line stripping run.  At the height of this giant leap his trace parted - A sad end.  Later Mr Caunter described the whole experience as the “greatest angling thrill of his life.”  I think it’s fair to say that this mighty 500 pounder was a Mako.  After the capture of Mrs Eathornes fish confirmed their presence, few would argue this fact.  As Mako’s have cruised the English channel for centuries there are bound to be lots of other times when Cornish shark anglers crossed paths with these mighty fish without knowing what they had encountered.  

So now we move on to the first British rod and line Mako capture.  The earliest I can trace took place on June 15th 1951 off Looe.  It was caught on the famous Looe boat the “PAULA”, skippered again by Bill and Jack Butters.  Now time for a little known surprising fact - it was actually caught by Hetty Eathornes Husband Jack Eathorne!  That really is some coincidence!  Jack and Hetty were at the forefront of the sharking scene, and were regulars to Looe to fish on the “PAULA”, or on their own boat the “LITTLE ONE”.  Jack Eathorne’s Mako was a female fish.  This makes it an even rarer catch because 95% of British Mako’s are male, so it was a real case of ladies first.  True to type this shark was a leaper and tested the angler, boatmen and tackle to the maximum.  Eventually the angler won the battle and returned for the weighing in ceremony on the quay at Looe.  Jack Bray and F Clarke confirmed the weight as 300lbs.  No one could identify its species so it was just recorded as a new English record weight for a shark.  The Photos and leaping ability are true evidence that this was the first rod caught Mako (Unless an earlier picture turns up one day).

Bill and Jack Butters and the “PAULA” were to figure prominently in the history of Mako captures, and they were at it again on the 8th of July 1954 with the capture of a 230 pounder. This shark was wrongly identified as being a Porbeagle and won the Sammy Porbeagle Trophy for the season for its captor Mr Miles, a SACGB member.  As Mako’s were seen as sharks that only existed in foreign waters, again, its leaping ability didn’t arise suspicion to its true identity.  So here we have two examples, one of mistaken identification, and one of no identification, from the early days of our club.  I’m sure that in time there could be one or two more pictures found that will add to the misidentification story.  

So there it is, the evidence shows it was Jack Eathorne who caught the first Mako, and Mr Miles had the second.  But Hetty Eathorne will always be remembered for catching the first identified Mako in our history and opening the door for us anglers to dream of one day catching the ultimate game shark.  Thanks for the dreams Hetty

By Ian Harbage