Shark Fishing Tips

Fishing for sharks can be a fun and exhilarating experience. There are a lot of ways it is like a typical fishing experience, however, there are a lot of ways in which it is different. Because sharks are so dangerous there are several things to keep in mind to ensure your safety as you hunt for one of nature's deadliest predators.

The Bait

Mackerel bait

If you want to get a shark's attention, then you're going to have to use live bait. The most common baits are bluefish and mackerel. However, anything that is oily is going to get a shark to bite. You will need to be prepared to pull in some bluefish as they love this bait as much as sharks do. Other baits that you can use include cobia, amberjack, permit, ladyfish, and kingfish. It is a good idea to mount a skirt near your hook. This is going to help create the movements that make the shark believe that the bait is still alive.

Sharks have a great sense of smell, they can smell up to a quarter mile away. The most important part of the bait is that it is fresh. You can use blocks of frozen fish that are in a mesh bag. Just lower them over the side of the boat. When you are on your boat, look for birds that are fishing in one specific and clustered area. Slowly move your boat to this area and look for the ripples that indicate small fish. This is the best way to catch some fresh bait. Simply cast your net over where the fish are and let it sink to the bottom.

To prep the bait, you will want to butterfly it. You will do this by cutting out the backbone. It will help it to flutter more and get a shark's attention. Fillet the fish from head to tail on both sides. Be sure to leave both fillets attached to the bait's head. Hook the bait either through the eyes or through the lower lip. Here is the best way to rig your bait.

The Tackle

Fishing From Back of Boat

You will need some pretty heavy-duty tackle to ensure that a shark is unable to break it when it takes the bait and swims away. If you are looking to catch sharks that are up to 7 feet, you will need to get a 60-pound braided line as your main line. You are also going to need around a rod's length of a strong monofilament line, it is suggested to get 400 pounds. You will need to use up to two feet of wire leader right at the end.

You should have some longer rigs that are on a shark float. The long bait should be about 250 feet away from the boat and can go as deep as about 50 feet down with a three-ounce weighted swivel rig. This will ensure that the bait is kept in line with the chum that happens to be floating down into the water column. You will know if more weight is needed depending on the drift speed. The bait needs to be at the same level as your chum. After you have 50 feet of the line out, then attach a float and send it out anywhere from 200 to 300 feet.

You will then set out your middle bait, which should be around 150 feet from the boat at about 35 feet deep. The weight of the swivel will depend on the drift conditions. If there are fast conditions, then a three-ounce weight will suffice. If the drift is slow, then you will not need any swivel. The close bait will need to be just out of sight of the boat, no weight or float needed, just flatlined out.

It is important that you always bring backups, you never know if a shark will be able to straighten your hook or break your de-hooker. When it comes to your de-hooker, this is another piece of tackle you will have to make sure that you have. Some sharks are endangered, so you will have to return them to the ocean once they have been caught. To do this, you will need a de-hooker.

Once the shark has taken the bait, wait about 10 seconds, and then set the hook. This will give the shark time to get the bait into its mouth. Set the hook by reeling it in tightly and then giving it two pumps, be sure to pump hard. This will make sure that the hook is through the thick part of the shark's jaw. After the shark is hooked up, then stay tight on it.

Remember to get a harness for when you are shark fishing. These aren't always very comfortable, especially when you are first getting used to them. It is recommended that you wear it for a while outside of the boat to get used to it. This will help you to move around easier once you are on the boat as you will be used to it by then.

When going for hooks, always be sure that you choose a circle hook. Otherwise, the shark will be hooked in the stomach. This is much more dangerous for both you and the shark. Not only are they safer, they are easier as well. The shark will set the hook on its own by pulling away. Most sharks will do well with anywhere from a 6 to a 10 aught circle hook. However, if you are looking to get a big shark, then you will need something as big as a 20 aught hook.

As far as rod and reel go, anywhere from a 6,000 to 8,000 size spinner reel and 10-12 foot rod. There are a lot of affordable to high-end options available online for you to choose from.


Shark Fishing From Shore

You can never be too careful whenever you are fishing for sharks. Because they are naturally aggressive and have so many teeth it is important that you have safety precautions in play to ensure that you and your crew are kept as safe as possible.

When you are just starting out, you may want to consider surf fishing, this is a much safer version of fishing for shark. You are on land rather than on a boat, and you are also only dealing with one shark rather than a group of them. Pier and surf fishing is best for beginners and is much easier in general.

Be sure that you do not skimp out on the quality of the equipment you buy. When you are fishing for a predator, your equipment could mean life and death. It is important that you are smart when you choose equipment. Shop around, and always ask questions, you can never be too careful when you are shark fishing.

Another important aspect of fishing for sharks is the fact that you will need to go in a group. Never go it alone, you will need multiple people as there are multiple jobs on the boat. Each job is to make sure that each person is kept safe. Everybody should know what their job is and should be given their tasks ahead of time. When a shark is pulled in, everybody should know where to be and what they should be doing.

For example, once a shark is on the line, someone needs to get the motor started in case the boat needs to be steered away from the shark. Some sharks are well known for making sudden lunges for the engine of a boat. It is also important to have harpoons or flying gaffs ready to go before the shark has even been hooked. Everyone should be prepared to do their job before the shark has been hooked, this will allow things to run as smoothly as possible.

In case someone gets bit, it is important that you are prepared for this. Abandon the fishing trip right away. Make sure that there is first aid available on hand and that it is sufficient for keeping a person from bleeding out on the boat. It is smart to have either shark repellent in spray form or through an electromagnetic device. However, you have it, be sure that it is easily accessible and ready to go at a moment's notice.

Double and even triple check your equipment before you take off into the ocean. This is not a normal fishing trip. This is a dangerous form of fishing that will require certain pieces of equipment that are going to keep you and your crew safe while you are out on the boat. Plus the more secure you are in your equipment, the less nervous you will be while out on the boat.

Where to Look

The hunting part of the fishing trip can be just as fun as the actual catching part if you know what you are doing. It is important that you know where to set up your chum so you do not spend the entire day waiting around and looking.

Sharks enjoy being near structures. This means that you should look for areas that have holes and ledges. Any place where a shark will be able to loiter is where you should be. These areas are typically pretty easy to find and will almost guarantee you some action.

You should also keep a close eye on the surface of the water. You will automatically be looking for a shark fin of course, but it is not always that easy. Look for water disturbances and ripples. If you see bluefish swimming away or birds taking off very suddenly, then you may be getting close to some shark activity.

Once you have found your spot, you will want to drift there for a while. Stay near the chum slick, but still drift a little away from it, so that you can cover more area as you wait. Remember that sharks are very curious, so they will automatically go up to something they see as interesting. However, they are also very smart, they are not always going to bite right away. They are likely to "dance" with their food. Be prepared for the shark to circle your boat, or the bait, or both.

You are going to have to show some patience like you would with any type of fishing. You will have to spend time looking for the perfect spot, then wait around for the shark to show interest. Then, finally, you will have to wait for the shark to dance around with your bait until they make the big bite and start making things happen.

Catching the Shark

catching a shark

Once you have safely found your spot, and you are set up with your bait, you will likely start to have a little fun as you get your first bite. You will know you have got your first bite because the rod tip is going to bend almost all the way into the water and the reel will scream. You will not want the shark to know right away that he has been hooked, so set the drag just loose enough so that he will be able to take the bait and then run with it.

Once their run lets up, then tighten in the drag. You will simply need to give a light tug. Once you do this, the circle hook should already be set. Now the shark knows that it has been hooked, and it is going to make its second run. Once this happens, then the real game of tug of war is going to start. Remember to take your time, it can take up to an hour to catch a really big shark. As soon as the shark gives you any kind of slack, then you will need to reel him in. Keep the rod tip up, and when the opportunity presents itself, then lower it just a little, then reel in the line.

This is where you need to make your decision on how you want to catch your shark. Do you want to bring him onto the boat and risk him dying? Or do you want to release him without taking him out of the water? Unless you are very fast moving in bringing him into the boat, it is recommended to let him go without taking him out of the water so his chances of survival are much higher.

If you decide to reel the shark all the way in, then your partner will need to approach the shark in the water. Use a rope around their tail if it is a bigger shark, gently pull it to the shore or the boat. If it is a smaller shark, then grab their tail, or their pectoral fins and pull them back towards the shore. Just be sure that their gills are not grabbed. Always make sure that the shark's mouth is never facing the ocean.

If you are surf fishing, then do not pull the shark up all the way to the hard sand. Keep them in the soft sand so they are still able to breathe thanks to the waves. You want them deep enough to breathe, but not so deep that you cannot take the hook out of their mouth. This is a delicate process and one that will require some finesse and some fast movements.

If you are fishing on a boat, then you will have to keep the boat moving when you are bringing in the shark to the gaff. This is especially the case when the shark is bigger. Be sure that everybody on the boat knows their role whenever the gaffing is taking place. They should know where to stand and ensure that their limbs are safe from the harpoon rope or the flying gaff.

Consider the tail of the shark to be their motor. Once the harpoon or gaff has been set, the next step is to get that tail out of the water with the tail rope. A 15-foot rope with a loop on the end should be used in order to lasso the tail. Once you have done this, then cleat the other side of the boat. Once you have the shark tied to the side of the boat, leave them there for about an hour to calm down. After doing this, then bring them aboard. If you do not have the time to let the shark subdue themselves, then tie a bucket to their head, this can help to calm them down.

Releasing the Shark

After all that hard work, it can be frustrating to have to let the shark go, but it is important in helping sustain the ecosystem and ensuring that you and future generations can fish for shark for years to come. In order to successfully release a shark, you need the right tools. A release stick is one of these tools. It is a device with a very long handle that will allow you to take the hook from the shark's mouth from a safe distance. (

The release sticks will have a metal loop at the end of the pole that you will slide down the leader onto the hook. Once your loop has reached the hook, then your release stick will need to either be thrust forward or twisted so that you can remove the hook from the shark's mouth. It is a good idea to bring multiple release sticks. Sharks can easily break or bend them while being released, especially a larger shark. (

If you are working with a smaller shark, then you can use a de-hooker or pliers to get the hook out. If you are unable to remove the hook within ten seconds, then snap it in half with bolt or wire cutters. Don't worry about the hook as much as you should worry about keeping the shark alive. If you want to take pictures, then you have 20 seconds, make them count. Group shots are the best bet. (

If you are on the beach, then push the shark back into the ocean, mouth first, until it is deep enough for it to swim away. Putting the shark back into the ocean in good condition should be your priority.

Other Considerations

There are a lot of things that go into successfully hunting for sharks. For instance, watch the conditions, some days are better than others, just like with any other type of fishing. Rain will typically push the sharks offshore and therefore are much less productive days when you are fishing from the beach. Check for changes in the barometric pressure. Do this in either direction, a big change can mean a bite is coming.

Low wind and surf are your best friend whenever you are surf fishing. Use a kayak to go out and drop your bait. Check the moon calendar as well. Many say that when there is a new moon, that those are the most productive days. You can catch a shark at any time of day also, however, patiently waiting for a bite in the evening can mean you are more likely to get a big one.

This is more of a seasonal sport, you are more likely to get bites in the summer and it is a lot more enjoyable for those who are doing the fishing. Pick your location wisely, this cannot be stressed enough. For instance, stay away from crowds, look for areas where the currents are stronger, estuaries and inlets are where you are most likely to find sharks. You do not want to endanger anybody swimming by trying to attract sharks, so be aware of your surroundings, and keep away from swimmers or others who would be immediately put into danger should a shark appear.

Shark fishing can be a lot of fun. But there is a lot that goes into it. You will have to keep a lot of things in mind to be successful, and most importantly, safe. It is a dangerous sport, but one that is very rewarding and fun when done correctly. You will have to do your research, buy the right equipment, and get the right crew together to ensure that you are going to have the best time possible. Remember to be smart and don't hold onto a shark that needs to be released, sharks like the blacktip are both plentiful and edible, but they are rare in that they do not have to be thrown back in. Know your sharks as well as you know where to find them and how to catch them. Chances are, you will have to throw them back. If you are not ready for shark fishing you can read up on fishing sturgeon here.

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