Amberjacks, Sharks, and Big Dan

By: Capt. Bruce Andersen

Springtime is always a very active exciting time fishing in the Florida keys. There are always a variety of options fishing here, but one thing that always stands out to me every April is the great amberjack fishing we have on the deep wrecks and seamounts offshore. Every spring huge numbers of greater amberjack migrate to the seamounts like the Islamorada Hump and various deep wrecks. This migration makes for awesome rod bending action. There are several ways to target these fish. Large live baits like blue runners, goggle eyes, and speedos are all great baits and the amberjack also present an awesome vertical jigging option.

In addition to the amberjack, you’ll find there’s a good chance of blackfin tuna and the possibility of mahi mahi joining the party. The other thing that you can expect during the amberjack spawn is a large number of big sharks. Tiger sharks, bulls, hammerheads, and a whole mix of others including the occasional mako can be present when amberjacks are here. Although shark fishing isn’t necessarily everyone’s thing, they present an opportunity for people that want a very big fish!

Whenever I’m thinking about targeting big sharks offshore I wind up remembering a charter from years ago. My good customer Mike had wanted to catch a big shark so we scheduled a trip during the amberjack spawn that April and headed out. At the time I had a mate named Dan. Dan was a great mate, one of my favorite guys I’ve fished with. He is one of a kind. He stood what seemed like seven feet tall with blonde hair and looked like a viking. He was a young, 19 year old keys kid with a laid back demeanor and liked to joke around a lot. Sometimes I had a hard time telling when he was serious. He’s also a little crazy.

We headed offshore and the sharks were thick that day. We quickly caught a 30 pound amberjack and a big tiger shark chased him to the boat. We hooked the amberjack to the shark rig and floated it out to him. It was an awesome bite, right on top and the shark proceeded to pull a few hundred yards of drag. Now our customer Mike who had arranged the trip lasted about 20 minutes before giving the rod to his buddy Tex. There was quite a bit of current offshore that day and in the 3 hours that we chased that shark we wound up about 6 miles from where we had originally hooked him.

It was a calm, hot day and sometime about ½ way through the fight big Dan said to me “It sure is hot out, I think I’ll go for a swim. I could do a lap around the boat for good luck.” Thinking he was kidding around I said “sounds like a great idea.” While I turned away to check to see how far we had drifted. All of a sudden I heard a splash and when I looked back big Dan was swimming around the boat. Now the shark we were fighting was still hundreds of yards away and we were miles from where we hooked him, but something about my mate swimming around with an 800 pound tiger shark and maybe some of his buddies didn’t sit right with me so we quickly got Dan back in the boat.

After about another hour we had the shark on the leader and got some pictures before releasing him. Tex wound up fighting that shark for almost 3 hours never giving up the rod. Dan now runs one of the most successful lobster and stone crab boats in the Keys, but he quit swimming with sharks years ago! Don’t forget to get out to the deep wrecks and seamounts this spring and get in on the action!