The combers that crash on the beach at Coyuca are just as translucent and beautiful as the surf at Acapulco, 15 miles away, but there is a difference—at Coyuca there are sharks. Makos, hammerheads and blacklips prowl the shallows to feed on the lesser fish which stray into the sea from a fresh-water lagoon nearby. So it is that the visitor to Coyuca may get a thrilling glimpse of a shark in a wave.
Native fishermen of the area spear the sharks for sport. Like old-time whalers, they use a harpoon with a detachable head fixed to a short length of wire cable and a coil of rope for horsing out the fish. The harpooner takes a friend or two along to help with big sharks, and then they wade out to their thighs, alert and purposeful as they search for game.
Watching a shark, a trio of intent fishermen (above) mark its position in a wave about to break. After the comber passes, the harpooner moves forward (below) and hurls his weapon at the shark, now vulnerable in the shallows. The shaft is quickly shaken free as the aroused fish tries to head out to deeper water. Now tug of war begins between shark and men (below). Sometimes a big one requires the combined strength of three or four men to contain it and eventually drag it out onto the beach.
Vanquished shark proves to be a six-foot blacktip which is hauled to a spot clear of the water. During World War II the sharks were taken for their livers, from which a substitute for cod-liver oil was derived, but now they are speared purely for sport.
The shark's jaws get a casual examination by the anglers. Now that commercial fishing for the sharks has stopped, they are once again numerous at the Barra de Coyuca, and harpooning is done the year round whenever the surf is clear enough to see into.