Playing Tag with Sharks...
Updated: Mar 4
Randy Mills shows the teeth of a large shark.
Man Traditionally has been charmed by the unknown and by exacting tests of skill and courage. The New World, Mt. Everest, the "flying machine" and now the Moon have challenged Man's intrepid spirit and have been conquered by him. Two CITizens are meeting similar challenges in their own spine-tingling hobbies. One tag sharks, while the other skydives while taking motion pictures. Each attests to an undaunted commitment to his sport.
Randy Mills of the building maintenance department of the National Bank of North America has been involved with fishing for most of his life. He began tagging sharks in 1963 when he attended a lecture given by Jack Casey, director of the Narragansett Marine Game Fish Research Center in Rhode Island. Casey, who is one of the country's few shark experts, was speaking about the vast unknown-the shark. And ever since, Randy has been tagging sharks off Long Island's coast for the United States Government to help determine migratory patterns and the lifestyles of the various species of shark.
Randy is one of the few people who hand-tags sharks. Most people involved tag the fish using a small harpoon. The percentage of recaptured fish is greater, however, when the hand tagging procedure is used.
The first step, obviously, is to attract the shark into the area of the boat. To do this, Randy creates a slick using chum, which is a combination of ground bunker fish mixed with straight bunker oil. While sharks don't see too well, their sense of smell is highly developed, and they can smell the chum from miles away and follow the scent to its source.
This whets their appetites just enough so they will go for the bait-preferably live bait, but mackerel or bunker fish will do. Then the tagger hopes to set the hook in the shark's mouth.
With a heavy-duty pole, line, and a long wire leader, the hooked fish is reeled in next to the boat where Randy and his fellow taggers tail-rope him (usually by having the shark swim through the loop).
With great care, so neither the shark nor the taggers are harmed, one man holds the tail rope while another holds the wire leader. Randy takes hold of the dorsal fin and with a punch, similar to pliers, punches a red plastic tag through the fin. The tagging is done.
The tail rope is removed first, and then the leader is dissolved by the shark's acetic system. He swims away, unharmed, to some part of the world where a fisherman might catch him and send vital information, such as the date and location of the catch, species of shark, length, and fishing method, to the government for compilation.
This program has been in effect only a few years, so the life of the shark is still an enigma to scientists. Randy has been active in the program almost from its inception. He has read volumes on the subject. But he is the first to admit, "The more you go after them, the more you realize how much is still unknown about the sharks."
The Shark is Hooked. The tagging crew, (l-r) Randy, Sal Gioello of Glo-Electric Co., and Ken Szczepanek of the Army reel him in.
When the shark is next to the boat, Ken, wearing heavy gloves, holds the leader while randy tail ropes the fish.
Sal holds the leader and Ken holds the tail rope as Randy leans over the side of The Margie and tags the shark.
John D. Bagnall, Investment Manager of C.I.T. Financial Corporation, is an avid skydiver. He is a member of a skydiving club and instructs others in the sport.
* This article is from an older magazine in the early 70s and has been since lost to time.