Marlin Longnecker is an American original, from the "SHARKS" license tag on the front of his pickup to the angry red scar across the back of his hand.

The scar is from the day this summer when he had an eight-foot shark on one line and a novice angler on another. Lines crossed and, as Longnecker separated them, the shark lunged, driving the barb of a six-inch hook through his fist and back out a knuckle.

The worst of it, Longnecker says now, is that he was 40 miles out to sea where the sharks are thick, right where he wanted to be, but he had to go back to port for lack of bolt-cutters to remove the hook.

That's hard-core.

Like his name, which is Pennsylvania Dutch, Longnecker is one of a kind.

He became a sharker on doctor's advice. "I owned a drive-in restaurant," he said. "I dealt with kids for 17 years. It was okay in the winter, but my stomach bothered me in the summer.

"The doctor said, 'You go hunting in the winter. You should go hunting in the summer.' "

The drive-in is long-since sold and the doctor long gone. "He didn't hunt, and now he's dead," said Longnecker.

But the patient thrives. At 55, the barrel-chested, weathered, flinty-eyed, shark-addicted Longnecker is a fixture on the Lewes waterfront.

"He doesn't carry any parties, as far as I know," said the booking lady at Fisherman's Wharf, where sport fishing trips are arranged. "He just goes whenever he can find somebody to go with him."

In fact, Longnecker does have a Coast Guard license and will carry parties, but he charges only $200 a day, about one-third the usual rate for sharking trips.

And he only takes people he likes, who will do exactly as he says. Some friends ride free. And often when he can't find friend or customer, he indeed goes out alone to battle brown sharks, sand tigers or makos.

"This is why I only charge $200," said Longnecker on Saturday as a shark stripped line from a reel and Longnecker waited for the right moment to harden the drag, set the hook and start the fight. "I get the fun (of setting the hook). The angler gets the work (of reeling the fish in)."

He had anchored his rough-hewn 40-footer, Gravel Gertie, about three miles off Rehoboth Beach. Already he had lost three sharks.

The first struck the line but missed the bait, leaving frayed monofilament.

The second broke off far behind the boat. The third snapped 80-pound test line five feet from the transom, his great brown bulk in plain sight of the horrified angler, John Barroni of Odessa, Del., who had fought him 10 minutes.

Now this shark dropped the bait. "We're running out of time," Longnecker said nervously. "Reel in and check the baits."

Tommie Gillespie had his bait almost to the boat when his rod bent and 80-pound test line tore off the reel.

"I think I might have one."

There are moments in the fighting of a shark that stick in the mind, but the one that sets it apart from any other fishing is the moment when the mate, in this case retired state policeman George Lightcap, puts the shell in the shotgun to administer the coup de grace.

He handed the gun to one of the anglers. Longnecker gestured to open ocean. "I don't care where you point that thing as long you point it out there."

The shark already had shown close behind the boat and Gillespie, a big man, was shaking. "My feet are shaking," he said.

Longnecker called for the gun.


They hoisted the shark up on the gin pole, two men hauling on the block and tackle. It measured just over eight feet and weighed 194 pounds. Its eyes were tiny and yellow, its belly distended, its teeth were in three rows, all curved inward like a trap, sharp as carefully honed knives.

(Bathers at Rehoboth and nearby swimming beaches need not worry, as shark attacks on humans are unknown there. "The surf stirs up so much sand that they don't come inshore," according to Rehoboth Beach Patrol Sgt. Jate Walsh. "The sand would get in their gills. They just don't come in. It's never been a problem.")

Longnecker butchered the big fish on the deck. "You have to bleed them and gut them within four hours or the meat is ruined," he said.

It took him a half-hour to clean the shark, down on his hands and knees in the blood and guts.

A 55-year-old man with money enough to do as he pleases, Longnecker was playing the game dirty and close to the ground, the way he likes it. He looked delighted.

An American original.

Would-be adventurers can write to Longnecker at P.O. Box 330, Lewes, Del. 19958 and he might consent to booking a trip. Then again, he might not.

Those wishing just to try shark meat can get a taste Saturday evenings at the First Port of Call Motel in Lewes, where owner Emerson Riley runs a weekly barbecue of sharks provided free by Longnecker. Or you can buy a chunk of Longnecker shark at the Fisherman's Wharf Seafood Market, where he sends all the extra.