"I Had a Hammer...It Escaped Me in the Morning!"

One of the Ocean's Great Sharks

Bocochibampo Bay Guaymas Sonora Mexico
Bocochibampo Bay Guaymas Sonora Mexico | Source
Large hammerhead investigates diver (not harmed)
Large hammerhead investigates diver (not harmed) | Source
The biggest known caught in Oz 1/1/4 tons 20 feet long estimated 40 years old
The biggest known caught in Oz 1/1/4 tons 20 feet long estimated 40 years old | Source

Fishing for Hammerhead Sharks in the Cortez

Many moons ago, when the meaning of the sanctity of life was not as well defined within this writer, I used to fish a lot in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf and the poetic sounding Vermillion Sea. The hunting instinct, strong amongst the young, has now departed these ageing bones, and any sport or pastime that involves causing suffering or killing our fellow voyagers on this wondrous planet will never occupy my time again. Unless, of course, the planet takes such a downturn that we need to depend on the fish, beast and wildfowl we can again capture for our sustenance.

But all this philosophy and argument aside, I surely miss those days out of Guaymas, Sonora, when don Pedro, Marcos, his son and their Gringo pal headed out between the islands in Bocochibampo Bay, already towing a lure on a steel leader.

We rarely "bottom fished," that is, lowered a weighted bait to the sea floor after the denizens that fed there: the flatfish, groupers, eels, along with some of the less savoury citizens such as the Scorpion Fish and Sea Catfish.

The surface feeders we were after seemed so much cleaner and free of the deritus of the sea bed. These were bonito, good for making cerviche, barracuda, the greyhounds of the sea, and my favorite, the Sierra, or Spanish Mackerel at around three pounds and great eating.

Back then, the really great surface feeders, Marlin, Sailfish and Mako were the province of the wealthy fishermen with the large boats and were found further down Baja California - from La Paz, south.

But there was one other creature, a great and little known predator then, the Hammerhead shark. Hammer heads found something they liked in the upper Cortez because they proliferated there. Later information had it that they liked eating rays and bottom fish of which there were plenty. They schooled in the day and mainly hunted at night.

There has always been some doubt about their intentions. Were they safe to be in the water with and had they ever attacked man? No one really seemed to know.

Later, I found out one species can grow to an outstanding 18 feet in length and weigh in upward of 1000 pounds! And that three species out of the eleven found world-wide have attacked man, but no fatalities have resulted.

The hammerhead has eyes and nostrils at the ends of its extraordinary head - the 'hammer,' but a rather tiny ray-like mouth for a shark. In Hawaii, a center for the really dangerous sharks such as the Great White and Tiger, hammerheads are not feared but rather admired and actually worshiped.

There have been many theories to account for evolution's strange crafting of the hammerhead's weird head. It may have more acute distance gauging with the widely spaced eyes, and it has been seen using the aerfoil-like head to help it manouvre rapidly after the swift rays, also members of the shark family, (stingrays are its favourite with large hammerheads being captured with up to a hundred of the ray's barbs piercing their heads and jaw!).

With a long gestation perdiod of 11 months, mamma hammerhead finds it all worth while when she counts her up to 50 live-born young. To help with exiting the womb, the young fish have their heads turned back over the head like cute little earmuffs.

From what I can gather, the only member of the family truly dangerous is the Great Hammerhead, and where all sharks are concerned it is the giants species - or exceptionally large individuals of any species - that is usually responsible for severe or fatal attacks to man.

My experience of hammerheads came while fishing in the above mentioned Mexican waters when a squid bait I was slowly trawling was seized by what turned out to be a 350 pound hammerhead (estimated). It didn't fight really, but swam heavily away, time and time again, until giving up after about one hour. As it was reeled it in to our tiny boat and Marcos stood by with the gaff, I saw it had been just hooked, in the corner of the mouth. Its positively enraged eyes, seeming full of intelligence, engaged mine in the boat as I saw the hook literally fall out of its mouth as the tension went off the line. Exhausted, it rested by the boat (it was close to the same length!) for another 5 minutes before sinking gently into deep water. I was happy! The boat boys were glum! It would have been worth a good few pesos in Guaymas market, but I would have paid ten times as much to let it go!


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Comments 22 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 22 months ago from Rural Arizona

Excellent piece of writing Bob. I had a similar experience fishing in the Sea of Cortez. But unlike you I never got to look the fish in the eye. We were bottom fishing and whatever it was took the bait on the way down. I was using heavy line but couldn't even slow it down until it took all the line off the reel.

I was pretty sure it must have been a submarine until I read your hub. Now I suspect it may have been a Hammerhead shark.

Great to see you writing again and hope all is well across the pond.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi OP: I hooked something like that in OZ from a beach. It just swam slowly off to sea and nothing me and 80 pound test line could do to stop it. In the end, I set the drag and it bowed the rod then kept pulling the line out from the horizontal rod until it twanged like a guitar string and broke. I was told it was probably a big croc! Shivers!

Bob


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 22 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, perhaps you hooked the same submarine I did?

Mike


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Mike:

Or we were on the same grog!?

Bob


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 22 months ago from Rural Arizona

Entirely possible Bob.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 22 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Howdy Bob. Sure have missed your writing here. This is an exceptional piece of prose! I had an encounter with a baby hammer head down by Corpus Christi. It kind of scared me because I was wondering where Mama was!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Haha...they do shoal in the day, too! Thanks for visit and kind words...very up and down these days with writing and health in general.

Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 22 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Like you Bob, my hunting instinct has diminished almost to the point of disinterest. I still go with my sons, but I no longer get up at 4:00 am and set off into the cold and dark to get my prey. I let the younger guys do that while I drink coffee and read.

You write beautifully and with such professional ease! I'm jealous.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks Will. I did it for many years, but there's not much content any more I'm afraid, I'm a bit burned out from words, yet the frame remains.

You should compliment me! Your prose and dialogue is as good as any pro writer. have you read any books by James Lee Burke? His prose is poetry in motion Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 22 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

No Bob, I haven't read Burke, but I'm going to because you've mentioned him twice, and if you like him, I know I will. What selection should I read first?


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Read "Tin Roof Blowdown," For me, his best, but he has won so many awards, he embroils the tragedy of the Hurricane into the fiction of a great read.... Bob I have read all of them several times


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 22 months ago from California

Hammerhead sharks seem to be amazing creatures. Thanks for enlightening me.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 22 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, I received "Tin Roof Blowdown" in the mail today but haven't had a chance to even read the first page. I'm really looking forward to reading this book based on your recommendation.

Mike


diogenes profile image

diogenes 22 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

That's a coincidence Mike. This morning, early, I finished the epilogue of this book for the third time of reading. You are in for a treat!

Bob


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Tfuly interesting, and the ending was perfect. I salute you on this one, and have to give you and awesome and up for it.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 21 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, I finally finished Tin Roof Blowdown today. Needless to say I am hooked on this authors books and plan to read every one of them.

Thanks again for steering me to this author.

Mike


diogenes profile image

diogenes 21 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

aviannovice

Thanks for visit and kind comment

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 21 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Mike: Some of his books are even better referring to the interplay between Dave and Clete. Truly exceptional author. Pity he is in mid to late 70's now; we may not get many more.

Bob

I suggest you keep the books unless they are online as they age well for a reread.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 21 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I just bought The Tin Roof Blowdown on Amazon, Bob. It should be here Wednesday.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 21 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

good for you will, enjoy, enjoy

bob


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 21 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob - I keep all of my books. At my age there is no such thing as a reread. After a month or so it is like a brand new book.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 21 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

LOL @ Mike!

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