‘My own encounter with a shark was every bit as terrifying as the movie Jaws’

Mar 11, 2020
The release of Jaws in 1975 scared swimmers, including Linda, away from the ocean. Source: Getty Images

In the 1970s Jaws was the most talked about film and, as a result, wearing a shark tooth around your neck was all the fashion. It was also a time to be scared of going swimming at the beach…

My family had a holiday house at the seaside and my first summer after the release of Jaws was a dry one. I was terrified to go into the water any deeper than my ankles!

My father also owned a boat and he was a very keen fisherman. My father and my uncle would go out fishing all day from first light until sunset. I wanted a shark tooth to wear come hell or high water, so I begged my father to catch me a shark. My father and uncle laughed at me.

As the summer holidays progressed and each day they went out to fish I was awake at 5am to see them off. I would tell them each day that today would be the day they caught me a shark. My constant nagging must have got under their skin because one Saturday morning they said, “Well if we are going to get a shark you’re coming for bait.”

I got into the boat and was ready for my adventure. My mother warned my father and uncle about keeping me on the ocean all day, concerned that it would be too hot. Mum packed me a lunch box and a bottle of red BoBo cordial and sent me on my way.

I knew I was not going to be bait but I was still happy to be going fishing, I loved fishing too. The morning was spent catching whiting and also a snapper and Dad said on the way home we would get some Snook. Over the side of the boat my dad had all the fish we’d caught in a bag that was hanging in the water to keep the fish fresh.

I was busy with my line in the water while Dad cruised along and my uncle cleaned some fish. Snook are caught by the boat moving while your lure is pulled along in the water behind the boat. The next thing I knew there was a thud and a bang and the boat was pulled sideways. My dad shouted, “Have you got a bite, Bubby?” I told him I didn’t.

The boat was jerked to the side with a thud again. My uncle let out a yell as he nearly fell out of the boat and into the water. There was another thud and then *snap*, the fish bag was gone with all of our fish in it.

The jerk was so hard and fast it tore the cleat from the side of the fibreglass boat. I stopped fishing and looked back at my dad and my uncle. Their faces were as white as a sheet. When I looked out I saw it … a fin. It was a shark. My father tried to motor away and he told me to pull in my line quickly, my heart was racing … I had seen Jaws at the movies!

I could see the two adults on this boat were not happy and were really scared, so was I. Before I could get my line in, it was snapped off. The shark was having a go at everything and then came the worst of all, it grabbed the propeller on the motor of our boat. The boat sputtered and stopped.

There was blood in the water from the shark’s mouth and from our fish. My dad had a gaff, a huge hook on the end of a pole, and my uncle had a shot gun. With swift action the shark was dead and my father had hooked it. The men worked quickly and got the shark by the tail, tying it up to the boat. My father got on the marine radio and called for help and in no time three other boats came to tow us into shore.

When we got to the beach and they dragged the huge shark onto the sand my dad and Uncle started to laugh, slapping each other on the back and telling their story to the other fishermen.

I did end up with my shark tooth, which I still own to this day. In fact, I got a whole jaw full of teeth. We also didn’t miss the fish the shark ate because we ate the shark.

What started out as a boring dry summer ended in a very exciting way!

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Do you remember seeing 'Jaws' at the cinema? What movie had you terrified?

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