Shark Fishing for Dummies

Shark Fishing for Dummies: or the secrets of easy fishing

A Guest Blog by Capt. Craig Eubank

shark fishing

Part One

Just the title of “Shark Fishing” conjures great expectations of money-shot photos of big toothy creatures laid out on the back deck of macho fishing vessels or on the concrete docks of any-coast USA covered in blood and license plates. Obviously, we have seen way too many movies and made for TV dramas. It has become a part of our urban folklore. Most of us can quote the key lines from the movie “Jaws” and have seen “Shark Week” every year for, well as long as we can remember. Between choosing to watch “Air Jaws” or “Swamp People” it has become a tossup.

Sadly, it really is that easy. Not that I am saying that you can visit your local tackle shop, hit the fuel dock with your 21 foot Aqua Squirt, and head out with high expectation of catching a Great or even Medium White Shark; that scenario isn’t exactly realistic. But, for most of us that live on a coast with saltwater, shark fishing is pretty easy.

Now, I am speaking from fishing experience here in the fabulous Florida Keys. That’s all I have done for a living over the last three decades. I am not trying to over simplify things, but if you follow the few steps outlined here, you will find success and maybe establish yourself as a “Shark Guide” among your friends in short order.

First, you don’t need to run great distances and fish deep water. No need to tempt fate, dance with danger, or burn a lot of $6-a-gallon fuel! Start off staying closer to shore. Pick an area where the tide runs into a closed body of water. A channel or “choked off” area of water where at high tide bait, shrimp, fish will congregate until the next falling tide. Sharks are opportunists and can be lured into shallows as well as deep water. They feed constantly and have no fear. They don’t anticipate geographical constrictions or “choke points.”

Bring plenty of bait. Whether it’s blocks of commercial chum, homemade ground up fish by product (guts!) whole baitfish, or fish oil, if it smells, it’s what you want. The one thing movies portray that is accurate, is the need for smelly bait to attract predators. As far as technique, don’t over think it. Typical bottom fishing rigs will work well. Remember, sharks are generally opportunists. It could be dead bait lying on the bottom like a bottom feeder might pick up, or live bait floundering on the surface that attracts them. Sharks take advantage of the weak and easy. They are eating machines with no fear. Take advantage of this trait!

Once anchored, start spreading the news. In other words, put some stink in the water. Ladle in some fish goo, hang a chum block or three, cut up a bloody carcass (here in the Florida Keys we use Barracuda or Bonita) and hang it over the side. This is where you want to have a roll of green line or fairly heavy string in order to hang various baits. You just want the scent; you don’t want to feed them anything without a hook in it. Bluefish, cod, snapper, menhaden oil, even oats and vegetable oil will work. You just want to give them a taste of something, not actually feed them. It is the same as walking into a pizza shop and smelling the garlic. Your mouth waters, but they don’t actually give you something to satisfy your hunger until you pay J

Next, patience. It takes time to attract the right predator. Remember all the time you have put into the plan and implementation now is not the time to rush things. Let the stink do its work. Too many anglers and guides and so excited that the first thing they do is put a bait with a hook in it out in the slick before there has been ample time to build up an interest. Sort of like buying drinks for a lady and waiting all of 5 minutes before making a proposition. Not good form. Relax. Get a drink, tell a story, and tune in the radio. WAIT. They aren’t going away. Did you leave the pizza parlor without your order?

As your chum does its job, plan how you are going to cover the water column. You will need at least two lines, one on the bottom and one on the top. If the water is particularly deep, you may need up to 5 lines at various depths. Certain sharks feed at certain depths. There is quite a bit of overlap, but you want to maximize your spread. Bottom baits are easy using lead weights to hold them down. An old guide’s trick is to use your downrigger, put the bait back a hundred feet, wind it up in the clip and put it down just as you would off-shore. Right on the bottom. It will break away when struck and you won’t have the lead weight to deal with while fighting the fish.

Surface baits can be supported by balloons, bobbers, chunks of Styrofoam, or one of my favorites; a fishing kite! Yep, just like you would use off-shore for Sailfish. In a current, the kite will keep the bait, dead or alive, right on the surface and you will have the control to wind it up or let it out without messing with the kite. Try it, you will be tickled.

Mid-water baits require more attention. They are just free-floating and will need to be monitored, let out steadily or wound in and re-started on a regular basis. Without good action, you will tire of these baits and usually they just sit at a pre-determined interval and hope for the best. Not a waste of time since we never know what a shark will want from day to day.

So, you have you chum working for you, your lines are in place covering the entire water column, and all there is to do now is wait. Unfortunately, that is the one virtue of shark fishing that is the hardest to teach. Patience. There is always the feeling that you could be doing more. And having an enthusiastic angler will only increase this feeling. But, at some point you need to decide that you are doing enough but not too much. And then entertaining the client is your priority. Of course most anglers can be distracted by doing a bit of bottom fishing for other species. Smaller fish. Get out a spinner, put on some cut bait and entertain the angler with some basic bottom fishing. This is not only distracting until you get the big strike but you are also catching bait that can be used for shark fishing. Keep your live well running if you have one. If you catch a small bait size fish, put him in the well and use him for the kite bait or butterfly him and put him on a down line.

shark fishing

Relax and realize that if you wait long enough, tend your lines, you will more than likely get a shot at what you came for. There are still a lot of sharks out there, they aren’t smart, and you only need one to move you from zero to hero. Have confidence.   There are no guarantees, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Next time we will discuss what you should do when you finally get that shark on your line!

This is part one in a series on shark fishing by Captain Craig Eubank, Owner/Operator of the charterboat “Absolut” in Key West, Florida

  • Aug., Sept. prime months for shark attacks in FL