Variety may be the spice of life, but adrenaline-pumping exploits are the hot sauce—and few boating adventures are as hot as shark fishing. The good news: believe it or not, shark fishing (or “sharking,” to those in the know) is a lot simpler than most people might think. The bad news: you might not catch anything. But the unpredictable results are all part of what makes it an adventure.
Case in point: check out our video (below), Tiger Shark Fights With Boys.
Our intended goal on this particular day was to catch a mako or thresher shark. After six hours of sitting, we were all pretty convinced the sharks weren’t going to bite at all. Yet there was hardly a boring moment; the mere anticipation of Jaws attacking our baits was enough to hold the attention of three 12-year-old boys all morning long. And when the tiger shark struck, everyone onboard felt their adrenaline level shoot through the roof. As the 250-pound brute came close to the boat and we knew we’d caught the “wrong” species, it didn’t matter one bit—just listen to the kids yelling, and you’ll know it was a boating adventure that they’ll remember for a lifetime.
Want to get in on this action? It’s always a good idea to hire a pro, and take a chartered trip before striking out on your own. That said, here are the basics:
1. Start off with a little legwork, and find out which species are in your piece of ocean during the season you plan to go sharking. Though big-game species like mako will only be found in specific areas for a few months out of the year, smaller and more plentiful species of sharks can be found within a few miles of just about every saltwater coast, most months of the year.
2. Get a bucket or block of frozen chum. Ground oily fish like menhaden or mackerel is best. Sharpies will enhance their slick with menhaden oil; in the video you’ll see us use a can of pressurized menhaden oil, called Fish Bomb, to create a massive shark-attracting slick.
3. Use fresh fish for bait, if possible, and frozen fish if not. Mackerel, bluefish, and menhaden are all good baits, but a chunk of tuna is the best.
4. Set up a long, tough leader. Rig at least 10 feet of cable to the end of your main line, then attach five feet of single-strand wire. The long leader prevents the shark’s rough skin from chafing through your line if he rubs against it.
5. Use a Haywire Twist to attach a circle hook to the end of your line; an 8/0 to 10/0 hook is good for sharks under 100 pounds, and a 12/0 to 14/0 hook is about right for larger sharks.
6. You can either anchor or drift as you shark fish; choose which to try depending on the wind and current. If they’re opposed, drifting is usually better because if you anchor, your lines will get pushed under the boat and may foul the anchor line.
7. Set different lines at different depths to cover the entire water column. Always have one just under the surface, and one near the bottom. You can use a balloon as a bobber, to hold a line at a specific depth. (Just stretch the rubber and tie it in an overhand knot, around the main line.)
8. When a fish strikes, don’t jerk the rod to set the hook. Just apply slow, steady pressure, and the circle hook will work its way into the corner of the shark’s jaw.
9. If you catch a shark, don’t try bringing it into the boat unless you’re experienced, and plan on harvesting it for food. After snapping off a few pictures of those gnarly teeth, clip the line as close to the hook as possible and let the shark swim away freely. (The hook won’t last long in the salt water, and rarely causes the shark lasting harm).
10. Never—never—carry a gun onboard, or shoot a shark. This introduces an unnecessary element of danger, and it’s also an unreliable way to kill a shark.
- Lenny Rudow