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Shark tourneys lure lookers and anglers from all over—it’s big money and BIG fish!
By Darren Stiles
Tags: offshore

You remember me saying that sharking is a chumming sport? Well when it comes to chum there are a lot of ways to go. Some captains like fresh ground chum, some think a bucket from the store is enough and others think that certain things need to be added. They are all correct. Frozen chum from the store works and fresh ground up chum works just as well if not better.

When it comes to sharking I like everything fresh as can be, even the chum. Ground up bunker, mackerel and bluefish all mixed together in a bucket and thrown in the freezer the day before is the best chum we find. Whatever you use make sure it is oily. We will take six buckets with us on a trip. Another bucket will have cut up bunker chunks that are thrown out in the slick every so often.

When starting to chum we always drag our bucket over the spot we are going to drift in order to get a chum slick jumpstarted. While dragging the bucket we throw some bunker oil in the water and will continue to do so until we start our drift. Once we started our drift we throw two buckets of chum over, one off the stern and one off the bow. This allows us to get a really nice chum spread going. We put our chum in a Canyon chum bag and tie it off to a cleat, but a milk crate will do the same.

Once our buckets are over we then put out our mako magnet, something we never leave the dock without. This gadget emits low electronic sound in the water that the sharks can sense and are attracted to. This magnet works so well we had to put it inside a milk crate to protect it from being eaten by sharks.

We use fresh bait only when it comes to fishing. We get fresh bluefish the night before our trip, which are kept cold and fresh until we are ready to use them. The perfect size bait for sharking for us is a 6- or 7-pound bluefish. We also have mackerel that we caught during the spring and individually freezer sealed. Tuna, false albacore, eels, squid, and bunker are other good baits.

Sure makos are good to eat, if you catch one and want it for the barbecue that is fine but only keep what you are going to eat.

Our first rod always gets a bluefish fillet, set out about 100-feet away from the boat and 80 feet down. Our second rod is two mackerel fillets and a large squid combo a.k.a. ham and eggs, set out about 55 feet away at the thermocline usually about 45- to 50-feet deep. Our third rod is a whole mackerel or bluefish fillet set 25-feet out with the bait just out of sight. All baits are kept at the set depth with a float or balloon. We will keep a fourth rod rigged and ready in case we get a shark that appears next to the boat. This rig is set with two fresh mackerel fillets.

When it comes to our rods and rigs we like to use Penn International 50s filled with 80-pound test. A Bimini is tied at the end and a wind-on leader of 200-pound test is added. For leaders we use 240-pound single strand wire and 10/0 or 11/0 Mustad hooks. In order to get the bait down we use regular bank sinkers ranging from 4 to 16 ounces, tied to the line with a rubber band. Between the sinker and the swivel we have a rattle on all our rods. As the rattle slides it makes a low noise that only adds to its attractiveness.

When we get a pickup I grab the rod and drop it in free spool, letting the fish run. When the line is coming off at a steady pace for seven seconds I point the rod at the fish, slip the lever to strike and reel until tight. Once it is tight I give the rod three or four pulls to really set the hook. Always point the rod at the fish, reel up the slack, and then and only then lift back on the rod to ensure a good hook-set.

Once hooked, you must keep pressure on the fish at all times and keep an eye on where it is going. This is where great teamwork comes into play. Communication is a very important part in the success of sharking. Once the fish is alongside the boat, it is then either tagged-and-released or gaffed and tail roped. Some tournaments are release only, others are mako only and have minimum weights, and all other sharks should be released as quickly as possible. Sure makos are good to eat, if you catch one and want it for the barbecue that is fine but only keep what you are going to eat.

There is a lot to sharking but with a good crew and keeping safety on your mind, sharking can be a blast and you never know you just might catch that giant mako. So get your crew together, enter a shark tournament or two this year, and have fun. After all that’s what it’s about. For those of you enter a tournament this year, keep your baits fresh and your chum slick going. See you at the captains meetings.

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