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With more local anglers now encountering sharks and rays in the summer surf, it's a good time to consider what to do in the event of a closer than expected encounter.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.

In mid-July, Greg Quire of Stroudsburg, PA hit the beaches of Long Beach Island in New Jersey with his daughters Colby and Taylor for a little bit of family surfcasting. The ocean water was clean and warm, the sun high in the sky; just another typical Jersey Shore summer weekend.

It’s safe to assume that some of the daytrippers sitting behind the Quire family along the sand got quite the surprise seeing the young ladies in bathing attire tackling more that just simple skates and dogfish in the wash, as 40- to 50-pound brown sharks and big stingrays were dragged onto the wet sand, uncoupled from the rig and slid back into the surf to swim free along the local beach.

No chumming, no specialized tactics, and not under cover of dark; as waters warm and bait fish get more plentiful, sharking in the summer surf in recent years has become more popular for the very simple fact that there are more sharks in the ocean and feeding along local beaches, regardless of stage of sun or moon.

As Trevor Friesema wrote in the July edition of the New Jersey, Delaware Bay edition of The Fisherman Magazine (Summer Surf Sharkin’), the tactics are generally straightforward. He suggests a 6/0 to 8/0 circle hook for clean, safe release, with a 3- to 4-foot piece of wire to minus abrasion from shark skin, then about a 2-foot piece of 100- to 250-pound test tied to a swivel. Friesema attaches that to 50- to 65-pound mono, though those who prefer braid can up their strength to 65- to 80-pound while getting more line on the reel should a real monster pile on.

“For rods, I like to use my Shimano 50W with a 35- to 50-pound class rod with my spinning gear. I really enjoy my Penn Spinfisher V6500 on an Ande tournament series surf rod,” Friesema advised, explaining “When you first lock into one you will experience the adrenaline rush of it trying to pull you off of the ledge.”

For sure, the adrenaline rush of one of these monster surf sharks or rays is something to experience; but one needs to take care and precaution on a couple of fronts, with safety a key concern.

That comes directly from the Quire crew!

Along with the two impressive sharks for Taylor and Colby, Steve Forgione of Bartonsville, PA was also fishing with the Quire family and got an up close and personal look with a stingray brought ashore, an encounter he won’t soon forget. While unhooking the ray, the tail whipped back and connected with Steve’s bare foot, the barb taking solid hold of the 24-year-old angler’s foot. “That barb was stuck in his foot and still connected to the ray for about three minutes until the lifeguard showed up to cut the barb,” said Greg Quire. “That was probably the longest three minutes Steve ever had to endure.” Without having a cutting tool, they held down both Steve and the ray while the lifeguards were summoned to help disengage the fish.

“I have to say he was a trooper, we pinned the ray down to keep it from moving and sawing his foot apart,” Greg noted. Once done, the ray was released and Steve’s foot was bandaged - with the barb inside - before heading off to the emergency room at Southern Ocean Medical Center (what us locals still refer to as SOCH.) “At the hospital it came out the other end when they removed the bandage. It just slipped out with the bandage,’ Quire said.

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