Tales From The Tower > Catching Sharks 1940′s

From the late 1940′s to the end of the 1950′s, City of Perth’s surf boats not only provided the club with regular competitive success but were also used for a variety of memorable recreational activities. As in earlier times, the boats were used by some ‘boaties’, including Don Arcus, George Kino, Gordon Cornish, Bob Ramsay and Warren Somerford for occasional weekend trips to Rottnest, and Somerford later had vivid recollections of arriving at a committee meeting one night and seeing Reg Sanderson ‘tearing strips off Bob Ramsay and George Kino’ for their part in such an excursion.

Shark BaitingMany City members can also remember that toward the end of the 1940′s, two of the club’s personalities, Brian Hogan and Linc ‘Needlenose’ Harris, each of whom served one season as Club Captain, initiated weekend shark-baiting exercises. Warren Somerford recalled that subsequent to the 1946 shark attack at City Beach, ‘the boys decided that a good way to get some income was to catch sharks and put them on ice and charge a silver coin admission [to view the shark] in the boatshed’. Raw rabbits were purchased from a large Barrack Street delicatessen and used as baits. Harris, who worked at the Midland railway workshops, supplied some chains and makeshift anchors and hooks, and these were attached to the kerosene tin floats which were used at the time as buoys in the club’s point races. On Saturday evenings, the lads would pile into a surf boat, row several kilometres offshore, and lay the baits. After spending the night at the clubhouse, the boat would be taken out again to check the baits early on Sunday morning. The method proved successful, and many sharks were caught over a period of several seasons, the larger of them being sold at the Perth fish markets in Wellington Street.

Wild stories about this activity abound. On one occasion, a raw rabbit could not be obtained, and returning to the beach empty handed from the delicatessen, disappointed at the prospect of having to abandon their plans for that evening, Harris and Hogan spotted a likely looking cat crossing the road. With Hogan huddling in the sidecar of his motorbike, Harris pursued the cat onto the footpath and mercilessly ran it down. According to ‘Wonk’ Somerford, however, Harris could not find anyone at the beach who was willing to skin it, and the bait was not laid. On another occasion, when it was suspected that sharks were being stolen from the traps during the night, Linc Harris stayed up and, armed with a .303 rifle, kept watch. Around daybreak, a fishing boat arrived and began hauling in the night’s catch. Incensed, Harris fired a couple of shots across the bow of the vessel, and the fishing boat very wisely beat a hasty retreat. Somerford recounted that ‘They never touched our baits again’. The practise of sharking baiting, which Alex Flecker later described as ‘beaut fun’, eventually came to ‘a sudden halt’ sometime in the early 1950′s, when it was discovered that the towing of the bigger sharks to the beach, tied to the stern of the surf boat, left a trail of blood which drew other sharks shoreward. Flecker remembers that there was the appearance, during one of the club’s Sunday morning swimming races, of ‘not one but two or three sharks in the vicinity’. Despite some excellent swimming performances that day, ‘We never tried catching sharks again’.