You don’t bait-cast a shark rig. I idled the boat across the incoming chop at the seven-mile reef in the Gulf off Port Aransis. Old army buddy Dewey Gubbins dropped one bait—half a King fish—and let out about sixty yards of line. Then he dropped the second bait. I swung the boat ninety degrees into the swells. There was a line of dark clouds on the horizon. The breeze seemed stiffer than when we came out between the jetties. The swells troughed out of their chop and the breeze brushed the them with whitecaps.

“There’s a squall coming,” I said.

The other boats started coming in ahead of the squall line. My reel in its boot gave a few ticks.

“It’s the seas pulling it,” I said.

Ten feet or so of line ticked off the reel. The line traveled slowly across the water. Gubbins held onto the side of the boat and his eyes followed the line.

“It’s not the seas,” I said.

I set the hook, put everything I had into it. The relentless speed of the line through the water did not change.

“It’s not very big,” I said.

Gubbins said, “I don’t think it knows it’s been hooked.”

Suddenly, the heavy rod bent like I had just roped and goosed a Texas steer. The weight of the shark almost jerked me overboard. Females were bigger than males.

“I was wrong,” I said. “It’s big.”

I fought the fish. The muscles in my arms and legs trembled. I pumped when the shark slacked and gave her line when she ran. I grabbed for things to keep from being pulled overboard.

“Hurry,” Gubbins said. “The squall.”

The squall loomed on the horizon, rain in dark slanted lines with wind. I fought the big shark still deep and unseen in the ocean.

“We’ll have to cut the line if the squall keeps coming,” Gubbins said.

“Don’t cut the line,” I warned.

I felt a drop of rain. It felt like a shard of ice on my skin.

“Twenty minutes,” Gubbins said.

“Thirty minutes,” he said later.

The squall rose off the port bow, blotting out the sun. It made the water dark. The shark rose out of the depths like a great gray-winged shadow.

“Holy. . .” Gubbins said.

He leaned out across the gunnels with .357 pistol in hand. The fish sounded. I brought it back to the pistol. It always seemed unfair to end a fight like this.

Rain. A blinding deluge. Gubbins cursed into the howl of the storm.

“Get it near the boat,” he yelled.

“You’ll shoot the boat!”

“Bring her close or I’ll cut the line.”

“Don’t cut it, Gubbins.”

The pistol cracked.

“Missed her. Rain in my eyes.”

“She’s coming back.”

I strained on the rod to lift the tired shark’s head. Jaws snapped open and you could see the vicious rows of teeth and eyes like a dead cobra’s. Rain pelted the seas. The seas crashed across the stern and for a moment we were knee deep in salt water. I thought we were sinking.

“Don’t cut the line.”

Gubbins slung water from his pistol barrel.

“Gubbins, shoot her! Now!”

He thrust his pistol at the shark and shot her in her small brain.

She went mad. I strained hard on the rod against the last of the shark’s fight. Her tail thrashed and she tried to dive through a wave tinged with her own blood. She turned belly up. The storm thudded her against the side of the boat.

 

“Not since Atlas Shrugged have I been so captivated by a novel with political overtones.” Hollywood Star about Charles W. Sasser’s A Thousand Years of Darkness.