Bear, shark and fishing boot survival stories

Whether you’re into fly fishing, coarse fishing or sea angling, we’re all well aware of how dangerous our favourite element can be.

You might be wearing the very best in waterproof fishing clothing, or ensconced in neoprene lined chest waders, but the truth is there are some emergencies no one can plan for.  Here we’ve trawled the web for some of the most incredible fishing survival stories. Warning: best read from the comfort of home.

Bear mauling

Angry bear

Best avoided at all costs
Source: Robon Writing

Hiking back from a successful salmon fishing trip on the Russian river, 25 year old Dan Bigley was an experienced outdoorsman. Well aware that there were bears in the area, Dan and his fishing buddy chatted loudly as they walked, making sure any animals in the vicinity would be aware of their presence.

But they didn’t reckon on meeting a rogue grizzly bear. Most bears will avoid humans, but not this one. Instead of trotting away, hackles raised, it stood its ground. Dan and friend backed away and once out of sight headed back the way they’d come. But the bear tracked them and pounced, pinning Bigley to the ground and savaging his face and head.

Dan Bigley was left blinded by the attack, but despite the seriousness of his injuries he now works as a social worker and college lecturer. And of course he still loves his fishing.

Shark attacks kayak

great white shark

Not a face you’d want to encounter
Source: Types of Shark HQ

For our next story we head to Port Elizabeth in South Africa. Werner Coetzee, 35 had recently moved to the area, and as a keen kayak fisherman was looking forward to the fine fishing on offer there.

Early one morning, he and some friends put to sea in search of Geelbek – Cape Salmon. Guided by their fishfinders the group came to a good spot, fanned out and prepared to fish.

It was while Werner was getting ready to drop his anchor that a Great White shark attacked from below. It struck his kayak at full pelt, making a noise like a gun going off and throwing the unlucky fisherman two and a half metres in the air. Now in the water, Coetzee watched wide eyed as the monster predator turned its attentions to him.

The fisherman managed to scramble aboard the remains of his craft and was plucked to safety by a nearby boat.  Needles to say, he and his friends beat a hasty retreat to land – happy to live to fish another day.

Fisherman’s boots

fishing boots

John and his life saving boots
Source: Just a little further

While fishing from any kind of boat, a life jacket really is a must have safety item. But if you forget to wear it, or there’s an equipment malfunction, here’s a story that should give you a clue what to do in the worst case scenario.

John Aldridge was working aboard a lobster boat out of Montauk, New York state. He was trying to move a cooler when the handle suddenly snapped. He lost his balance and fell off the back of the boat. It was two and a half hours before crewmates noticed he was missing and raised the alarm.

By the time Aldridge was found, he’d been in the water for nearly 12 hours. The fisherman hadn’t been wearing a lifejacket but thanks to his quick thinking, he managed to save his own life.

How? He pulled off his seaboots and trapping air in them, jammed one under each armpit.

Sharks and crocs


Could you make it through a croc infested swamp?
Source: Surviving your Serengeti

A fishing trip almost ended in disaster for two elderly Australians when their fishing boat was capsized by heavy waves off the North Queensland Coast.

Ross Pennisi, 82, and Phillip Sorbello, 77 found themselves clinging to their upturned boat in shark infested waters. Terrified they’d be eaten, it took them a nerve jangling two hours to make it to shore.

And their reward? A trek through crocodile infested swamps to make it to safety.

Somehow the intrepid duo lived to tell the tale. Of his ordeal, Ross Pennisi told reporters:

“You have not got much time to pray there but we were thinking of Him and we asked Him for help and I think we got it. I’ve been tough all my life and thank God for that.”

Disappearing act

empty rowing boat

Where’s Ben?
Source: This journey is my own

Here’s a little gem from Florida newspaper, the Evening Independent, from August 1958.

Would be rescuers feared the worst when local radio engineer, Ben Smith’s rented angling boat was found adrift at sea. A sea search failed to find the married father, and he was later given up for dead.

But in small town America, secrets can be hard to keep. It wasn’t long before Sheriff’s deputies heard a rumour that Smith wasn’t dead at all. Their enquiries revealed the lost angler was alive and well, and living under an assumed name in a town a few miles away.

They decided not to press charges, but on hearing the news of her husband’s resurrection, Mrs Smith threatened to sue. Ben Smith had moved in with the family baby sitter!