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Fishing For Shallow Water Sharks

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On: Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 10:14AM | By: Merry Beth Ryan

Some would say that perhaps no other fish in the ocean has been more misunderstood than the shark. Few sharks were ever actually targeted on a regular basis (other than Makos). Then in the early 70s the ever-so-popular movie “Jaws” hit theaters. Soon after a whole new era began in shark fishing. Shark fishing is a type of fishing readily available to most anglers. Virtually all of Florida's ocean waters are shark fishing hot spots. I recently set out in search of shallow water sharks in my homeport of Boca Grande with Captain Van Hubbard. I knew I was in for an adventure, knowing these coastal sharks strike with a vengeance. We looked for baitfish along the beaches where we were sure to find some hungry shallow water sharks. We cast netted some smaller minnows to use as chum and we later used a Sabiki rig to load the bait well with blue runners, which is a bait of choice for many coastal sharks. The water was crystal clear on a cool February morning. Schools of glass minnows were frantically trying to avoid the predators.

Calico crabs, as well as horseshoe crabs, scurried along the sandy bottom as we positioned the boat. Several soaring white pelicans flew past as I stood watching schools of mullet flip-flopping. Now it was time to keep our eyes peeled for some hungry, shimmering, toothy shallow water sharks, hoping they did not have an agenda of their own. My level of anticipation and excitement was building as each minute passed by. I refused to allow myself to be distracted by all of nature’s wonders and chose to concentrate on the task at hand. I was looking forward to hooking up with one of the most challenging tackle-testers that swim the waters. Fishing and chumming go together like ice cream and apple pie. Sharks have a very keen sense of smell and, more often than not, it will entice the sharks to the chumming process, and they soon will be gathering in your chum slick wondering what’s for dinner.

Sharks also have a tremendous ability to hear. A distressed fish can be picked up from quite a distance away by a shark’s sensors which are located in their lateral lines. We dropped our chum bag (frozen ground fish) over the side of the boat; then we began to use small live minnows to chum with as well. We then took a moment to make sure our tackle was ready to face the challenge that lay ahead. Sharp hooks and good wire leaders are a must. We baited two rods — one with live bait and the other with dead bait — and placed them on both sides of our chum slicks. Next, we baited a third rod in hopes we would have a chance to sight cast to one of the toothy rockets, offering them a live blue runner. A few moments later I shouted, with great enthusiasm, “One o’clock shark!” One was closing in on our chum line. I quickly got positioned and ready to cast off the bow. I knew, with all sight casting to fish, my cast had to be close to perfect in order to get close enough to the fish so the shark could find my bait, yet not too close to spook the fish.

My live blue runner landed about ten feet up current from my target. Within seconds, the shark accelerated and devoured the bait. I was now hooked up and doing battle with a smaller version of “Jaws.” The fight was plenty powerful. Long drag-screeching runs kept me on my toes. As I was fighting my fish the skipper pointed out the area we were fishing was known to the locals as “shark city,” which added a nice touch. Known as “shark city” because many hooked Tarpon are frequently attacked in this area by large predator sharks during the Tarpon season. I fought this fish for quite a while with great respect. I never doubted the strength this fish portrayed. As the fish got closer I was better able to determine what kind of shark it was — a nice four-foot Black Tip shark. A shark such as this one can do damage with one slap of the tail, not to mention the damage the mouth full of teeth could cause if you were to be bitten . The tough skin is hard on delicate hands and a glove can be very handy to hold onto the tail. I did my best to hold the leader tight, keeping the shark’s mouth full of teeth away from my hands as we released the shark. After a shark has been hooked, fought, and brought alongside the boat, you must exhibit extreme caution at all times. Make sure you have your camera set up ahead of time, so you can quickly shoot some pictures and release your fish alive. A shark is not a fish you want loose in your boat. The look that a shark gives you after being hooked is enough to let you know this is a gamefish with attitude. Later in the day, I also hooked a small Bull shark. Talk about bending a rod; this shark gave me all the excitement I could handle. It was a lot of fun to catch.

The Bull shark bit a mullet I was using as bait and as soon as it did the line began peeling off the reel rapidly. Shallow water sharking provides some great action for kids as well. Catching a shark of any size usually will leave kids with memories that will last a lifetime. So it went; another day in paradise. From many angler’s perspective, Florida is one of the top destinations in the world to fish. There is an abundance of saltwater opportunities to choose from throughout the state. I was fortunate to be able to experience first hand shallow water shark fishing, and I can honestly tell you I am looking forward to my next chance to do so again in the very near future. Finding fish in Florida is easy; catching them is challenging, to say the least, but enjoying the experience no matter what the outcome is priceless. If the opportunity presents itself to get out and hook into some skinny water sharks, jump at it you; will not be sorry you did. Shallow water sharks pack a powerful punch. If you’re looking to test your stamina against a worthy adversary, try sight casting to these toothy tackle-testers.They can be found cruising around the passes as well as the beaches. They, at times, can be as challenging to catch as a bonefish, and, at other times, as aggressive as “Jaws.” If you do decide to keep one to eat, make sure you ice it down as quickly as possible.


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