For Havelock North teenager James Cruickshank a fishing expedition off Awatoto last Sunday ended with a chilling brush with a mako shark he said was as big as his kayak.
What followed was a close encounter with a second smaller shark, and a few minutes later a third as James watched the hungry creatures pursue and latch on to kahawai and kingfish he was catching from a trawl line attached to the 3m kayak.
The incidents, about 3km off the beach just south of the Tutaekuri River mouth, were watched through binoculars by his father, also a keen angler, and another man on the beach - they had spotted splashes as James smacked the paddle into the sea.
"Dad's been in that situation before," the 16-year-old said. "He knew what was happening."
But although he loves the sea and has spent a lot of time in it swimming, fishing and kayaking, it was his first close encounter with a large shark which he said "came right up".
It was about noon when he had the first strike on his line. He hooked a kingfish, but as it was coming up the mako emerged from the deep and lunged at it - taking all but the head.
As James pulled in the bleeding remains of the kingfish, the mako made a second lunge as it surfaced close to the kayak.
"I thought 'where's my knife?'."
Instinctively, he lashed out with the paddle.
"I've heard if a shark is coming toward you, hit it on the nose."
He did and it swam off.
"I was pretty freaked out," he said.
"Some guys on a boat nearby - they saw it too."
However, the experience did not put James off and he ran out another line - snaring a kahawai a short time later but again attracting a shark.
"It came in and got it - all I reeled in was the head."
With blood from the mauled fish in the water he soon spotted a third shark.
"I figured it was time to come in."
He quickly paddled ashore, but said the experience had not put him off.
"I'll go out again, although, yeah, I was pretty scared at the time."
On Saturday, a shark was spotted at Ocean Beach, a long way offshore.
"The last couple of days they've been coming in."
Napier Department of Conservation spokeswoman Barbara Curtis said there was no firm evidence of more sharks in Hawke Bay, although anecdotal evidence suggested more may be about this summer.
"But they are always out there."
Only one fatal shark attack has been reported in the Bay - in 1886. Bright Cooper, 26, was mauled while swimming off Marine Parade's northern end - near where Ocean Spa is today.
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