What was the ‘mystery’ shark that kept circling?
AS the fin kept breaking the surface in the darkness, I could have jumped on the marine predator.
It was only metres away, not one bit afraid of me as it fed in the shallows.
At one of my favourite night fishing spots in Ballina, I was used to hearing lots of splashing especially from the abundant mullet leaping across the water in the moonlight.
However, this was different.
As I observed with fishing rod in hand chasing a large bream or maybe even a tailor, this aquatic intruder was toying with me.
I was knee deep in water and a little anxious what was happening before my eyes.
The black figure appeared and cruised around within touching distance for several minutes.
If the creature knew I was so close, it didn't care.
My fishing visitor continued to feed in the metre deep water. It was on the edge of a sandbar where I was casting towards to tempt a fish feeding on yabbies or soldier crabs.
As I watched it circle several times just in front of me, I had to discover what it was.
So I fearlessly ventured further from the safety of knee deep water into the fish-rich lagoon.
With the haunting sound of the Jaws theme echoeing in my ears, I slowly but surely stepped forward. It was waist deep now and within grabbing distance of what I thought was a shark.
I never took my eyes off the predator as it continued to feast on the smorgasbord of tucker below.
Every now and again, the fins would appear, then disappear and reappear, cutting the water with ease.
But I still couldn't get a solid sight of its body. So I waded even deeper, ever cautious but desperate to see what had interrupted my night's fishing.
Still the unknown creature patrolled the area, often making a splash as it dived under the surface. But then those frightening fins would appear again.
With my curiosity at breaking point, I took my last few steps and suddenly the mystery was solved.
The 'fins' I saw were actually the flaps of a big stingray which lived in the protected bay.
As the hungry ray scavenged for food along the bottom, it would tilt on its side, pushing those flaps out of the water like fins.
From far being a menacing shark, it was a harmless intruder enjoying an evening feast.