Spoon-Fed Sharks - The Fisherman

Spoon-Fed Sharks

On or about October 15, the striped bass fishery exploded in New York Bight, with huge bass reported from off the Rockaways in New York down along Monmouth County in New Jersey.  By the time you read this, I’m hoping you too (as well as I) are enjoying a banner November striper fishery for November.

One of the truly amazing aspects of this initial wave of stripers was the number of thresher sharks in the mix.  While many folks chomp at the bit for the spring and early summer run of threshers in the deep, it’s incredible seeing that giant whip-like tail slicing through inshore bunker schools.  There are countless tales of liveliners having reels taken down to the backing as the helmsmen races due east to catch up on a spool-emptying run by a big thresher.

I could’ve probably counted on two hands and half a foot the number of threshers I’d known of caught as bycatch on bunker spoons before this season; yet over a week’s span, I’d need a whole bunch of extra fingers and toes to keep up.  Following the October 19-20 alone, Tony Maja, Jr. reported six 50-pound bass caught on Tony Maja spoons and mojos, and nine threshers. 

I also received a number of reader photos showing threshers and stripers caught in the same trip while spooning, including this week’s cover shot.   But I’ve been careful to contact each person to make sure that they indeed had their HMS Permit required to retain a thresher.   All who contacted me did in fact have their permit, though I’m sure there have been a few folks who don’t regularly fish offshore yet stumbled onto an inshore thresher, skirting a very tricky line back to the dock.  Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. 

To fish for and retain any highly migratory species – like bluefin tuna and thresher sharks – an HMS Permit is required for the boat (visit hmspermits.noaa.gov).  With the amount of bait we see inshore at certain times of the year (like right now) there’s no telling what you might encounter when putting a hook in the water.  It’s a paltry $26 expense, and well worth a visit to the HMS Permit website should you happen upon the catch of a lifetime. 

I know a lot of folks could care less about shark fishing.  I recently did an informal poll on social media (is that any less accurate than the surveys NOAA uses?) asking Facebook friends, yes or no, how many would like to see recreational shark fishing and harvest banned in the United States?  There were roughly 350 comments, but I whittled it all down to just the yes or no answers resulting in a 10 to 1 opposition to any recreational shark ban. 

Yes, roughly one in 10 think shark fishing should be banned; no disrespect intended, but I wonder how the 10% would feel if they actually did stumbled into a 150-pound thresher while striper fishing?  Personally, I find thresher shark steaks absolutely terrific on the grill; just a spritz of olive oil on both sides, coat lightly with “everything bagel” seasoning you’ll found in the supermarket spice aisle (you can thank me later) and grill a shade to the rarer side.

I know what you’re thinking; why would I ask about the preference for a potential shark ban if I clearly enjoy the concept of sticking a legal and sustainable shark for the grill?  Well, there are a number of people trying to ban shark fishing outright, and in the coming months we could see major changes in our ability to target and retain mako sharks.  We’ll have more on that in later editions.  So you can’t target browns or sand tigers, and next it could be makos.  I guess what I’m saying is enjoy that spoon-fed thresher now, while you can – just get your permit first!


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