OUTDOORS WITH PETER YOUNG
As the near shore, offshore water temperatures begin their steady decent toward numbers more associated with the cooler winter weather, the tuna bite tends to become more prolific. For local crews and anglers, this usually means more consistent catches of larger tuna fish. Somewhat like Newton's third law of motion however, for every action in the offshore world there is an arguably equal, and definitely opposite, reaction. For as catches of tuna fish improve and increase, so do sightings and catches of one of the world's fastest, most aggressive, and impressive predators, the mako shark.
The word "mako" is believed to originate in the Maori or Te Reo Maori language, which is an official language of New Zealand. The original meaning of the word is unclear, though a typical gloss or definition of the word translates it to mean large blue shark or even man-eater.
In the Gulf of Mexico when someone says mako, they are usually referring to the shortfin mako, which is more commonly known to inhabit Gulf waters, as opposed to its cousin the longfin mako. Mako sharks have thick, powerful tails that are described as homocercal or equal-lobed in shape, like a crescent moon. This type of tail is found on many pelagic or migratory species and it a characteristic that is generally associated with high speed fish. The shortfin mako has been recorded at speeds approaching 50 miles an hour.
Makos feed mainly on bony fish such as tuna, bonito, swordfish and mackerel, but have been known to attack and eat dolphins, other large sharks, or just about anything that they feel like eating. Like most predators near the top of the food chain, they do not adhere to any semblance of rules. Also like many larger predators of the ocean, mako sharks do not reproduce in large numbers. Females typically grow larger than males and carry litters ranging from four to 25 pups, according to one California research group. However, after a 15- 18 month gestation period, female mako sharks typically only give birth to around two pups because the mako embryos actually consume each other in the womb. This is a fairly common practice in sharks, and is known as intrauterine cannibalism. Mako sharks are known for their almost pointed snouts, incredible speed and acrobatics, unpredictability, and downright meanness.
Capt. Nate Forbes, a Port Aransas boat captain on the Iced Down out of Deep Sea Headquarters, describes a typical Mako fight:
"The thing about a mako shark is that, sometimes, even a big fish will come right to the surface and directly to the boat. Either they haven't decided or figured out that they are hooked yet, or they are just that curious to see what is going on. Sometimes they will lay right next to the boat before you gaff them and then suddenly "come to life" on the gaff or even jump into the boat…they can be very dangerous. In a typical mako fight, these fish are usually hooked close to the boat. After the hookset, the fish is very likely to spend a lot of time on the surface, and even in the air, before sounding. They tend to do a little bit of everything. As
far as acrobatics and the overall fight, they're probably one of the hardest fish invited across to fight out there, and to land once they decide that the fight is on. This is the time of year when the makos typically begin to show up."
It seems that someone catches a mako almost every year down at Big Shell on North Padre Island, as these fish are not afraid of land and will search high and low for food. It was just last winter that a perfectly healthy mako shark was spotted by some commercial fisherman out bay fishing. In a separate incident, likely involving the same shark, a mako was later found dead on one of the beaches of the Corpus Christi Bay.
But, arguably, the best way to get your hands on a reel tied to a big mako shark is to get yourself a ticket on a long-range party boat trip. These trips are offered by several of the docks here in Port Aransas and are known to fill up pretty fast. Though the tickets are generally pricey, it is hard to put a price on an incredible offshore experience and the potential fish of a lifetime.
Peter Young is captain of the 43- foot Cabo 'Mo Azul'. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.