The shark fishing off Hernando Beach has really heated up in recent weeks. A variety of species have been testing our tackle the past few weeks. As we approach summer, I expect a very active bite for anglers who plan to target sharks.
Lets start with the one thing to get these fish 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 close.
Anchor 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 use 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 side ways 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 pin fish, or lady fish 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 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 4-8 foot sharks. Play it safe, and do not bring a knife to a gun fight!
Steel leaders are a must when dealing with sharks. An 8-12 inch long 100-120 pound steel leader on a 6/0-8/0 hook should work. Place a 6-8 foot section of 60 pound mono-filament leader between the steel leader and the braid to allow for stretch and to attach a balloon or cork if needed. Good luck and tight lines!
Capt. Keith Tomlinson runs Bulldog Fishin Charters out of Hernando Beach. Contact him at www.bulldogfishin.com or (352)238-3581.