Shark encounter surprises Stonington fishermen

STONINGTON — Donnie McHenan has been lobster fishing most of his life, but last week he had a first-time experience he’ll never forget and hopes never to repeat.

The weather was fine as McHenan and sternman Mike Thompson were hauling lobster gear near Green Ledge off Fog Island, an empty stretch of water off the northeast corner of Isle au Haut, aboard his 38-foot boat Daddy’s Girls on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 5.

“We were fishing pairs,” two traps connected by a groundline, “and one on the washboard,” McHenan said Monday evening. “I looked in the water and it was all white.”

Thompson asked, “What the heck…?”

McHenan hauled the second trap in the pair onto his boat’s rail and right behind it came a huge shark — 12 to 15 feet long and “as big around as a 55-gallon drum,” McHenan estimated.

“You couldn’t get your arms around it, but you wouldn’t want to,” he said.

The shark rose up out of the water and tried to take a bite out of the trap. The creature let go, sank back into the water, then rose up again as if it were going to leap into the boat. Then it disappeared.

“It was startling, I guess,” McHenan said.

Startling enough that even though “it was a beautiful day,” he and his sternman hauled just a couple more strings of traps before calling it a day and heading back to unload Daddy’s Girls’ catch at the Greenhead Lobster Co. pier.

“I don’t like sharks,” McHenan said. “Never did.”

McHenan hadn’t paid much attention to the possibility that big sharks might be feeding in the waters near Stonington but, he said, earlier this summer he had seen at least a couple of dead seals in the water that showed evidence of shark bites.

Reflecting on his adventure, McHenan said “it was quite an experience and I’d rather not do it again,” but it certainly won’t keep him from fishing.

“I’ve been lobstering 50 years or so. I enjoy it. I’ll keep going while I can do it.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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