Video: An Unintended Swim with a Shark

Oh no, over Pons goes! YouTube frame grab, Jasper Pons.
Oh no, over Pons goes! YouTube frame grab, Jasper Pons.

By Mike Stevens

Jasper Pons was fishing about 2 kilometers offshore of South Africa targeting a wreck sitting in 30 meters (yeah, it's a whole metric system thing down there) of water where tuna were known to breeze through and pick off baitfish. He shuddered at the thought of ending up in the drink at the same time, as sharks are also known to visit the area in search of the same tuna. Pons is used to losing fish to sharks, but imagining what would happen if he found himself in the water with them is something he can't shake.

When it happened, he kept his cool and saved himself and his gear. After failing to gaff an estimated 30-kg yellowfin, Pons lost his balance and capsized, sending him into the water with the tuna and the shark.

"As I went over, I knew the tuna was a goner. I have seldom recovered a fish after a failed gaffing attempt," Pons said. "This time, I was concerned about my safety."

The shark was about 3 meters long and 50 cm wide with a blunt nose that lead Pons to believe that it was a bull shark. Dangerous, but not quite whitey. He was back on top of his boat in seconds, and after rounding up some floating gear, he "took the hint, and went home with an empty hatch and some interesting memories."

Ironically, sharks don't even fall in to the Top 3 on Pons' list of risks. Un order of importance and with his take:

1. Conditions – "We have WindGURU which is pretty accurate. So I don't go if the guru says no."

2. Surf Zone – "I minimize risk by using a PFD, studying the surf zone, knowing when to bail out, and waiting for a gap in the surf."

3. Equipment – "A leaking boat is the most dangerous thing when in deep sea. I keep my equipment new and check for cracks if I get a pounding in the surf," he said. "I take some safety equipment, especially a cell phone because we have an excellent sea rescue organization here (NSIR), to which I make a regular donation as part of my safety investment!"

4. Big, bad fish – "You might thinks sharks are the most dangerous, but billfish are also to be avoided. The dilemma with them is, you want to release them, but if you tire them out too much, they might die anyway," he said. "Sharks are obviously not to be messed with, and I have stopped dangling my legs in the water after reading about the tragic loss of a kayak angler due to a bite. At the same time, these are the only two kayak/shark incidents I know about, so the odds of a deliberate attack on a kayaker by a shark is pretty slim."