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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015
Out and about

Lure sharks in for a great fight

BY CAPT. KEITH TOMLINSON Hernando Beach fishing report

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The shark fishing off Hernando Beach is in full swing. A variety of species have been testing my clients and my tackle the past few weeks. As we approach summer, I expect a very active bite for anglers who plan to target sharks.

Let’s start with the one thing to get these guys to the boat — chum! Sharks have an incredible sense of smell and can detect the slightest scent in the water. Once they lock on to an odor they usually make their way to the source to investigate a possible meal. Chum blocks (store bought or home made), fish carcasses tied off the side or cut up bait in a sack are all great options to lure these predators up close.

Anchor up in an area with a good moving tide and place the chum in the water to allow the scent to work. I often place a buoy on the anchor line. This allows me to just untie from the boat and throw the line in the water in case we have to chase a big shark down. Remember to “mark” your anchor location on the GPS so you can quickly find the ball.

When the tide is weak or slack, there are a few techniques anglers can do to get the scent out. The first one is to not anchor and let the wind push your boat. Be sure to trim your motor up so the boat will turn sideways and catch more wind. If there is no wind either, then I deploy the trolling motor and slowly troll. The idea for both these methods is to get the scent out.

Sharks will eat a variety of baits. Any cut bait will do the trick, but live baits also are very productive. Mullet, large pinfish or ladyfish all work well if fished live, but I often cut the tail a bit so the fish will swim wounded and put scent in the water.

Light spinning tackle is a blast, but it’s a bit of a gamble. If you hook the “big one” on this setup it’s like trying to fly a kite in a hurricane, but when a 2- or 3-footer cooperates it’s a great fight. I prefer heavy spinning tackle for larger fish. A 60 series reel that will hold 200-250 yards of 50-pound braid will handle most 4- to 8-foot sharks. Play it safe, and do not bring a knife to a gun fight.

Steel leaders are a must when dealing with sharks. Use a 8- to 12-inch-long 100- or 120-pound steel leader on a 6/0-8/0 hook. I place a 6- to 8-foot section of 60-pound mono-filament leader between the steel leader and the braid to allow for stretch and give me a place to attach a balloon or cork if needed.

Good luck and tight lines!

Keith Tomlinson owns Bulldog Fishin’ Charters, operating out of Hernando Beach. Contact him at or (352) 238-3581. He is on Facebook as Bulldog Fishin’ Charters.

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