Shark fishing is one of the most exciting and adventurous sports in the world. Like hunting apex predators on land; fishing for sharks lets you test your skills against some of the most intimidating and interesting animals on the planet. Before you head out looking for sharks, make sure you have the right tools and tackle, as well as the right mindset for the challenge.
Where you’ll find sharks will depend on the time of year, and what type of sharks you are going after. In general, shark fishing is much like other types of angling: look for structures in the water. You should be able to locate sharks near areas that have piers, ledges, holes, wrecks, coral reefs, and any other spots where baitfish might congregate.
Look for changes in the surface water, as these might indicate a small pocket of baitfish. Flocking birds could also give you clues to where sharks might be found. These signs, combined with water temperatures in the mid to high 60’s, gives you a good chance at finding a prize shark.
With recent advancements in fishing technology and equipment, you can get by with smaller rods and reels, as well as fishing line that has a much narrower diameter, all while maintaining excellent strength. That said, having the wrong equipment can lead to a full day of frustration, so make sure you have rods that can hold up to the pull of heavy sharks and reels that can be loaded with plenty of strong line.
Most shark anglers choose braided line for two reasons. First, braided line ranging from 80 to 100-pound test usually has the same diameter of monofilament in the 18 to 25-pound range. You can pack hundreds of yard worth of braided line on to your reel, which will come in handy when a strong shark makes a run. Next, braided line has much less stretch, which is important when there is 100 yards or more between you and the fish.
Live bait or cut bait is the single most important part for enticing sharks. Mackerel and bluefish are common baits, but anything oily will usually get the sharks biting. Many shark anglers like bunker, but bluefish love these baits as much as sharks, so you may spend all your time pulling in blues instead of fighting a prize shark. Almost anything bloody and meaty will work, including permit, cobia, amberjack, kingfish, and ladyfish. You should also consider mounting a skirt near the hook, as this will create tempting movements in the water and hide the hook from the shark’s vision.
Most shark anglers will drift for sharks, using a chum line to bring them near the boat. When a shark takes the bait, give it five to ten seconds, then reel the line tight and make a couple of firm tugs to set the hook. You’ll have to give a strong pull so the hook can penetrate the thick, tough part of a shark’s jaw. This is where your tight, strong braided line will come in handy.
Quickly remove all the rods and other objects away from the landing area, and for especially large shark, keep the motor running and have someone maneuver as needed. Be especially careful to keep the shark away from the motors.
Have your gaffs and harpoons ready, and always use a tail rope before bringing the shark into the boat. The shark’s tail is a muscle-bound propulsion system, and it can do a lot of damage if it starts thrashing around uncontrolled.
It should be common sense, but we feel the need to mention that you should NEVER put your fingers near a shark’s mouth. A small twitch from the shark can cause an unwanted meeting between your fingers and the shark’s razor-sharp teeth.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have an unforgettable adventure the next time you go shark fishing.
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