Most anglers go out of their way to avoid hooking a shark. In their minds, anyone who is actually hunting sharks doesn’t know much about fishing and has his priorities mixed up. They reason that these toothy critters don’t put up much of a battle. With sharks of any size and particularly in relatively shallow water, you’re going to have to crank the engine and chase them with the boat.
Two of the toughest and most memorable battles I have ever endured involved sharks that pounced on a fish I had almost landed. In the first instance, I was leading a relatively small wahoo to the boat so we could release it. Suddenly, an oversized mako shark ate half of that fish in one bite and inadvertently hooked itself. We chased that mako forever, and I put every ounce of pressure on it that I could until my arms and shoulders turned numb from the pain. During all that time, we hadn’t even slowed the shark down. Finally, in desperation, I purposely broke the shark off.
The second battle took place over Pinas Reef in Panama, where I was getting close to landing a 250-pound black marlin. That’s when some unseen creature devoured the marlin in three bites. It took over an hour before I could bring that shark alongside the boat. It had to weigh at least 1,500 pounds and was half as long as the boat. That, by the way, was the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.
Whenever and wherever you fish, keep a rod rigged and ready for sharks. It should have an abrasion leader about 10 feet long and 12 to 18 inches of single-strand wire between the abrasion leader and the hook. A circle hook should be your first choice because its hooking ratio is higher than any other type. And remember that you don’t have to set it. Unless you are only trolling, you want to be able to cast a bait in front of a cruising shark and retrieve it on the surface or close to it. A balao or a strip of natural bait should do the job.
Casting to a cruising shark is exciting sport, but in areas that boast plenty of sharks, you can also anchor the boat and chum them with chunks of natural bait. You’ll need a quick release on the anchor, because a hooked shark will take off at considerable speed. Keep in mind that sharks on the flats or in relatively shallow water can be easily spooked, so your cast has to be on target. The bait should ease in front of the shark and appear as if it is getting away.
Sharks do not have a bony skeleton like other fishes. They can literally turn their head and bite their tail, and their body is extremely strong. The best policy for any shark and particularly those of size is to keep them in the water. Don’t bring them aboard the boat or try to handle them like other fishes. And, every shark has teeth, so be careful.
If you’ve never been hunting sharks, this is a good time to try. You’ll be amazed at the battle they put up and how often you have to follow them with the boat. Hunting sharks is exciting for anglers of any age, but if you take youngsters fishing, they’ll talk about it forever. Don’t pass up the opportunity to expand your fishing horizons.
By Mark Sosin