Holle Abee has long experience fishing, crabbing, and hunting in the Southern US.
This article discusses saltwater fishing for sharks from a pier, the surf, the shore, or from a small boat. The tips provided are apropriate for bays, inlets, sounds, nearshore, and tidal creeks and rivers. Some of the tips provided, however, can be employed anywhere that there are sharks. Shark fishing can be productive in just about any saltwater body.
Shark fishing is a great sport and has taken off in popularity in the last decade or so. I've often wondered if it was the Jaws movie that prompted this shark fishing frenzy. In many areas of the US, sharks are abundant and easy to catch. They're fun to pull in, too. Even though you won't get the dazzling runs or the flying leaps you get with some gamefish species, sharks are strong swimmers and they're powerful. They're also good to eat when properly prepared. A thick 3-4 foot shark will provide you with numerous fillets or steaks - whichever you prefer.
Where to Fish
Sharks can be found just about anywhere—in the surf, around piers, in bays, in the open ocean, and in tidal creeks and tidal rivers. My favorite form of shark fishing is from a pier. Sharks always seem to hang around my favorite Florida pier, probably because fishermen are always cleaning fish at the fish-cleaning station, and the blood and scraps are returned to the ocean, making sort of a continual chum feed for the toothy diners.
When to Fish
I've caught sharks in Florida year round, and at all times of the day and night. I have, however, caught a lot more sharks at night than I have during the daylight hours. The sharks I've caught at night also tend to be larger sharks. I've also landed sharks at all points in the changing tides, from dead low tide to high tide.
Shark Fishing Gear
What will you need for shark fishing gear? You'll need a heavy duty rod, a reel loaded with at least 50-pound test line with a 60-pound wire leader, and a very sharp hook. A great reel for sharks is the tough Penn Levelwind GTi (see below). The size of the hook depends on the size of the shark you're trying to catch and the size of the bait you'll be using. Make sure the hook is extra sharp. Sharks have tough mouths that are often dificult to penetrate.Take along a pair of pliers, a pair of gloves, a fillet knife, and a large cooler of ice. If you're fishing from a pier, you'll also need a pier net or a gaff to haul up a larger shark. If you're fishing for monster sharks, of course, you'll need heavier shark fishing gear.
Sharks are not finicky eaters. From my experience, the best bait is a smelly bait. Sharks have an amazing sense of smell. They can smell a single drop of blood in a million gallons of water, so use this to your advantage. I like to use mullet - either whole or cut into large fillets. Many shark anglers use a live mullet and cut a couple of slashes in the fish's side to allow it to bleed a little. I've also had success with cut bluefish, cut and live whiting, live menhaden, chunks of stingrays, and live blue crabs. I've even caught small sharks on dead shrimp.
With cut bait, I fish right on the bottom. With live fish, I sometimes freeline the bait. Try both methods to see which works best for the area you're fishing.
If you're fishing from a pier, a boat, or from shore, try chumming. You can purchase a bucket of chum for a nominal price, or make your own from chopped mullet and/or menhaden. Remember: you just want to entice the sharks - you don't want to fill them up! If you're surf fishing, do not use a chum line, or you might become the bait! Check out my article about chum and chumming to get some ideas.
As I already mentioned, sharks have incredibly tough mouths, so they're often difficult to hook. I remember fishing in ultra-clear water once, and I could see a four-foot shark eating my bait. But it seemed like it took him forever to actually get hooked. Whenever I tried to set the hook, all I accomplished was jerking the hook out of the shark's mouth. So be patient.
Once your shark is hooked, and you've reeled him in, you have to land him. If you're fishing from a pier, drop the pier net under the fish and retrieve him. Ask for help from a fellow fisherman - this is difficult to do alone. If you're in a boat, you'll need a gaff for a large shark. From shore, pull the shark gradually onto the bank. As he nears land, he's going to put up a renewed fight. Try to keep his head under water to help calm him.
Use gloves and pliers to remove the hook. Even a small shark can have some wicked teeth. If you're going to eat the shark, the quicker you fillet it, the better. Get the fillets on ice as soon as possible.
If you're not going to eat the shark, release it unharmed to ensure the future of shark fishing. It might seem as though sharks are in constant supply, but they're not - especially the larger ones. In some areas, fishing for sharks is under a lot of pressure, and their numbers are declining. Enjoy your shark fishing trips, but always fish responsibly.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is it true that some states don't allow chumming within certain distances from shore, so as not to bring in sharks close to people who are swimming?
Answer: Anglers need to check fishing regulations for the state where they'll be fishing. Also, different areas within a state can have their own rules.
Sugeng on April 03, 2017:
1 berry , some body got to eat the shark,might as well be Holle Abee.
Jeff on September 02, 2013:
Sharks smell blood at one part per million or approx one drop per million. That equals about one drop per 13 gallons not one drop per million gallons.
If you are going to be an expert please do your research.
brandon on December 20, 2011:
same here finning is wrong i go fishing at st pete pier in the summer and catch loads of sharks they relly grill up nice but release as many as possible(:
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 26, 2010:
I agree, Travelin. It's cruel to just fin sharks and release them. They die a slow, agonizing death.
Turtle, I'm not a pro - I just love fishing!
TurtleDog on October 17, 2010:
Another good fishing article. Thanks for posting! My shark experience has mainly been limited to the lowly dogfish/sandshark on medium gear. No a pro yet like you guys :-) Still great fun though!
TravelinAsia from Thailand/Southeast Asia on October 12, 2010:
Killing sharks is ok !
Finning sharks in not !
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 04, 2010:
Thanks a bunch, Sirrot!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 02, 2010:
We always keep only one to eat. Where we fish, sometimes the sharks are so thick that we'll catch one with every cast. On fishfinder rigs, we often catch two at the time. Thanks for reading!
fishkiller1206 on July 02, 2010:
We fish in new jersey, out in the bay and catch sandbar(brown) sharks up to 100+ lbs. They are protected in the north east now so its just catch and release , but I just joined the apex predator tagging program, so now its tag and release. They are a blast on spinning gear. Hub is great.
Tight lines and screamin drags
lets all do our part to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures. Remember sharks are slow to mature and reproduce, take one for the table but try to release famales unharmed to continue breeding...
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 19, 2010:
Liz, thanks for reading!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 19, 2010:
Megzi, thanks for reading, and for the tip!
Liz B. on June 17, 2010:
Love Funfix.com! Awesome!!
megzi_24 on June 15, 2010:
sweet info...there are so many fishing adventures to be found! I found a site on google when i was looking for shark fishing in Florida..its www.funfix.com. (0: They list every state with spots to have any certain adventure....they have a TON of fishing spots! (0: its awesome!!!!!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 01, 2010:
MD, you don't have fishing piers or sharks?
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 29, 2010:
Lady G, PETA does some great work, but sometimes they go too far!
Debra Allen from West By God on April 27, 2010:
Although I never fished for shark, I like you informative and detailed hub on how to get them. If PETA had their way we would not even have pets.
The last time I tasted shark it was kind of dry, but that was froma restaurant many years ago.
I will rate this up because of the detail involved along with the video's. Great job!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 27, 2010:
I don't have a problem with fin soup if the shark is killed in the process. I just think it's cruel to hack off the fins and leave them to starve to death. How much more trouble would it be to just go ahead and kill the shark?? Or perhaps that's what you do - some people don't.
HackSharks on April 26, 2010:
Berry sounds like PETA to me. I love fin soup. The world is all mine and I can do what I want. If you can do want you wish and I can do what I wish then.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 20, 2010:
1berry, I don't doubt that shark populations are threatened in some areas of the world, but where we fish, the water is full of them! Sometimes we catch one after the other - nonstop. We keep only one shark per day and return the others to the water unharmed. I think finning is a cruel practice and should be illegal.
1berry from Germany on February 20, 2010:
please watch http://www.sharkwater.com/TodayShow.htm
1berry from Germany on February 20, 2010:
sharks are threatened with extinction.
Our world need the top predators.
keep that in mind!!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 16, 2010:
1berry, we eat the shark meat.
1berry from Germany on February 16, 2010:
:-( that's really poor!
watch the movie sharkwater
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2010:
Wow, B-rad. I've never used a live catfish for bait. I have used live mullet, whiting, and ladyfish. Are sharks that big good to eat? We love shark meat. In fact, I wrote a hub about how to prepare and cook it. Thanks for visiting!
B-rad on January 11, 2010:
i choose to catch my big sharks on a pinn jig master 500.I have 40 pound electric blue big game trileen. my bigesw from oure bay is a 6'3 bull shark i cought it on a live hard head cat fish tho combanation of the blood and movement seems to do vary well resulting in numurus hook ups with half the whateing time.I am first mate one the iland queen 2 in port aransas texas i would love aney feed back
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 01, 2010:
Thanks, Nate. We like it - in fact, it's my eldest daughter's favorite fish!
NateSean from Salem, MA on January 01, 2010:
I think this is definitely one of the mose unique subjects I've read about.
I ate shark once a while back and it was actually very tasty. I'll refrain from the standard "tastes like chicken" comment, even though the way it was prepared it had the same consistancy.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 16, 2009:
Me, too, Dorsi! And they're really fun to catch. Thanks for reading!
Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on December 16, 2009:
Nice hub! Sharks have always fascinated me!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 10, 2009:
Thanks for visiting. I'd love to be fishing right now, too!
Bmystic57 from Sheldon,Tx on December 08, 2009:
Great hubpage here. very descriptive.
Hey keep writing please.
Makes me want to go fishing right now! Bye Bye
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 02, 2009:
That must be what we caught at Amelia Island once. I thought it was going to eat the boat and everything in it before we could kill it!
Rich (Fishing boats) McPharlin on October 04, 2009:
Great Hub. But remember folks, if you have hooked a Mako shark, keep him away from your boat until he is completely tierd. They have a nasty habit of jumping into your boat and biting you and your buddies. Find some fishing boats for sale here: http://www.boat4u.com.au/fishing-boats