Great White Hunter


THE morning Mick McGillivray saw a big fin off his favourite beach he knew he had to identify what it was that lurked beneath the surface.

"I did it for my own safety, and for the safety of other swimmers," said the Evans Head fisherman, reluctant to tell his tale

"If it was a bronze whaler, It would have been no problem. They are always out there, off our coast. And besides, you can read a whaler. You can tell by their actions what they are going to do."

Trouble is, the sharks Mick fished out of the murky waters off Airforce Beach this week weren't whalers ? they were great white pointers, and despite their juvenile size they presented a powerful picture.

Mick, an experienced charter boat operator and professional trawler skipper, trolled two different sharks out of the sea on Tuesday and Wednesday and he released them unharmed and in good condition. They each measured about 2.5m tip to tail, but he never got a look at the shark belonging to the large fin he saw that first morning, while paddling his kayak for exercise.

"I've seen a lot of sharks over the years," he says. "And I reckon that one would measure 12-15 foot (4m).

"I wanted to find out what that creature was, so I would know if it was safe to swim."

Mick used a length of rope tied to steel wire trace crimped to a 10/0 galvanised jew hook baited with dead mullet and trolled slowly behind his outboard-powered tinny. The result lured the first shark out of water that he described as filthy and cold.

Northerly winds are known to drive colder water from the depths up to the surface and on shore, stirring up weed and beach murk.

"You couldn't see four feet in front of you," Mick said.

He brought the shark alongside and cut the trace as close to its jaws as he dared, and released it unharmed and in fighting spirit. The galvanised hook will rust out much quicker than one made from stainless steel.

On Wednesday morning Mick trolled again to prove that the first wasn't a fluke.

There were bait fish boiling the surface and gannets diving for a feed. This time he hauled a different shark out of the deep.

On Thursday morning the weather was different.

A southerly ripped through the night before, cleaning up the murk and driving warm surface water inshore. Mick fished again with no result.

Southern Cross University shark researcher Dr Daniel Bucher says the size of the two smaller sharks indicates they were juveniles up to four years old.

Great whites deliver baby sharks 1.8m long and these young predators satisfy their hunger with fish. As they grow older they concentrate on larger prey such as seals.

"Those juvenile white pointers probably wouldn't have a go at humans," he said. "But all the same, if I saw them I would get out of the water."

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