Fishing Tips: Sharks

By Capt. Kevin Shea: June 2005


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Nice 20lb Mahi caught in Sept. 2003

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Setting shark baits
It is important to understand that sharks swim and hunt at different depths. In addition, different species of sharks prefer varying depths. For example, most of the thresher sharks I have caught have been hooked at more than 30 ft. below the surface. So, when considering which baits should be closer to the boat, think about putting your deepest baits further out than the rest. I usually work 4 baits with normal wind.

The furthest bait is tied off the bow rail with a flatline clip, keeping the line far out of the way, and the rod in the highest rocket holder on that side of the boat. That bait is set down 80 ft. then a balloon or float is attached. The next is set down 60 ft., rod in the near trolling holder and line attached to the midship cleat with a rubber band (or flatline clip). The third is set down 30 ft with the rod set in the far aft trolling holder and the line direct to the balloon. The last line is a free bait with no balloon set directly down, just out of site.

Your drags should be kept very loose so you can hear the clicker start move. If you are using balloons, it's best to use different colors for each rod. This way if there is some movement, you can identify which line is getting hit.

The Waiting Game
In the first page of this article, I quoted an old mate of mine comparing shark fishing to watching grass grow. Well, this is when some people might actually agree with that comparison. I can tell you that I've hooked up with sharks as soon as 10 minutes and have waited as much as 8 hours before a hookup. There have even been times when we didn't hook up with any sharks, but these are infrequent. The average time we have spent waiting for a shark is around 2 hours.

The Hookup
Different types of sharks will act differently when biting a bait AND when running when hooked up. For example, a blue shark will normally take a bait softly and drag it for a little bit before swallowing your hook. On the other hand, a mako will act unexpectedly. Normally, though, a mako will hit the line with "chomps" and can do any number of activities when hooked up. I've seen makos jump, run right at the boat full speed, run in the opposite direction of the boat and I've even seen them mildly come right to the boat.

If the fish fighter will be using a harness, make sure they are attached to the boat, as well as, the rod and reel. You can do this with a simple light rope, or safety lines are probably sold at your offshore tackle shop. While the fight is happening, the only people in the fish fighting area should be the mate and the person fighting the shark. The Captain is at the helm and everyone else should stay out of the way!

Bringing the fish to the boat
When you finally start bringing the shark to the boat, the mate's job becomes essential. He'll want the fisherman to reel the leader up to the end of the rod. The he will, carefully, hand wire the shark to the boat. I can't stress enough the importance of handling the wire leader appropriately. Remember, this is 200 lb.+ wire that will not break if you are attached to it! When bringing wire in by hand, you want to use the "hand over" approach. NEVER wrap the wire around your hand. If a large mako wants to make a run while you're pulling him in, that wire should be able to pull right out of your hands without damage to anyone.

If you are keeping the shark, have your flying gaff and tail rope ready and tied to a cleat. Only keep a shark if you are going to eat it, in a tournament and it's in contention, or if it's within range of a world record. If these conditions do not apply, get your tag stick, tag this shark, take your pictures and cut that wire! Please do not unnecessarily kill any shark!

That being said, have a great trip and enjoy being on the water! I'll keep updating this article with new details, so check back on it regularly.

Capt. Kevin Shea


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