Kayak Fishing for Sharks E-mail
Monday, 19 October 2009 10:03

Sharkin

For many years I didn’t have any interest fishing for sharks from a kayak.  One day my buddy Bob and me were going to give the tarpon a shot out in the southern part of the 10,000 Islands in Everglades National Park.  We were at the part of the islands where Sandfly and Chokoloskee Passes meet the gulf.  It’s a hot spot for tarpon when they’re around.  It’s easier to use bait, both because the fish are more receptive to it and also because a circle hook in the corner of the mouth gives you the best chance of landing a tarpon.  So we hit the south end of Slade Key with Sabiki rigs.  Instead of a weight I had a 3” Tsunami swim shad on the end.  I like using a lure in case something like a ladyfish, jack, mackerel, etc. happens along as they make great bait too.  I had just gotten an Atlantic Bumper and put in on the 8/0 circle on my heavy rod.  I put it out 30’ behind me and continued to cast the Sabiki rig to try for some more Bumpers. 

hook up

I had a bait tank with me and a dozen bait would be nice.  I got a hit but it wasn’t another Bumper.  The fish pulled 75 yards of line on the first run as I yelled to Bob that I had a real fish on.  At first I thought it might be a large redfish, but after 15 minutes I ruled that out.  The longer the fight the more fish got eliminated.  It definitely wasn’t a snook, as it never came up.  There wasn’t any throbbing being transmitted down the line so it wasn’t a jack.  Probably wasn’t a tarpon either but the big ones often don’t jump, as sometimes they’re lazy.  At a half hour we figured it wasn’t a cobia.  The longer the fight the fewer fish it could be.  The runs were powerful and I could feel the massive headshakes.  It was a very big fish.  I wanted to get a look at it but the water is very murky in the Everglades with visibility limited to about 2’.  Each time I’d get the fish near and try to lift it to get a peek it would take off on another run.  Bob said it towed me at about 3 mph most of the time.  At first it headed across the bay to the entrance of Sandfly.  Our launch was at the Ranger Station on the other side of the pass, 3 miles in that direction so it worked for us.  The fish decided not to enter the pass and did an about face and started zig zagging towards the gulf.  Bummer.  After the 13th run and 1.5 hours elapsed time since hookup, I finally got a look.  It was a really big shark.  The remora on it was 3’.  Bob tried to get a picture but it took off on another run.  We both saw it though and I got a good look.  The fish was somewhere between 8-10’.  I didn’t know what species but later found out it was a bull shark - one of the nastiest and most dangerous sharks there is.  I don’t have any idea what it weighed but talking with guides an 8’ bull is probably going to be at least 300 pounds and one 10’ in the neighborhood of 500!  Whatever it was it was the biggest fish I’d ever hooked on a kayak.  3 more runs and another ½ hour and I had it up again but then it took off on yet another run that seemed as powerful as the first.  Then there was nothing, as the line had parted.  It was amazing to have actually stayed connected so long using a Sabiki rig without wire, and while it was a heavy Sabiki rig it still couldn’t have been more then 15 pound test.  The shad had to have caught just right.  Anyway I had mixed emotions.  It was quite a fight and I was very tired.  2 hours of constant battle.  My arms were sore and my belly hurt from where the rod butt dug in.  Although I wanted a picture it was a powerful animal and bulls have been known to bite boats and be a real handful.  My 13.5’ kayak didn’t offer much safety should things go awry.  It was exciting though.

Big fish

Though that fish was an accident I’ve since gone sharking for bulls several times.  It’s by far the most reliable fishery here in the Everglades.  The bull sharks are everywhere from May through December.  They’re big, powerful and very willing.  The smallest I’ve caught is about 4’ and the average is about 6.  A 6’ bull is approximately 150-pounds.  I target them close to the oyster bars in shallow water.  The shallower I go the smaller they get.  Rarely in fishing do you try for the small fish but this is such a situation.  I find a 4-5 footer to be the best.  They provide plenty of sport, a nice sleigh ride and can be brought to the kayak anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
All you need is a fairly heavy rod, some wire and bait.  Use either a bait runner or conventional setup.  I like 30-pound braid as my main line.  On the end of it I have a short heavy leader, anywhere from 50-100 pound test.  The leaders there to provide something to grab should you have too.  On the end of the leader I have 60-pound wire with a circle hook on the end.  I use 8/0 to 10/0 hooks.  The sharks like either live or fresh dead bait.  I’ve tried frozen but haven’t had much luck with it.  As long as it’s fresh they’re not very particular.  Anything will do.  I’ve used jacks, ladyfish and catfish mostly. I usually clip some fins or the tail so the bait struggles.  I’ll put the hook through the nostril and then run it somewhere in the back third.  I leave the hook fully exposed so it’s easier to hookup.  The clipped baits struggling is like ringing the dinner bell and calls the sharks in.  I live line the bait about 30’ behind me.  While the baits out there I cast with another outfit pursuing game fish. 

Generally the clicker will start to go off and I reel in my casting setup and grab the shark rod.  Sharks have to keep moving so I just wait a reasonable amount of time and then either push the lever forward (conventional) or trip the bait runner on the spinner.  If the circle caught I’m off on a sleigh ride.  These fish are powerful.  The bulls hug the bottom, which is good.  They don’t want to be up near the surface.  I’ve broken 2 rods fighting them so make sure the rod you’re using has some muscle, cause the sharks sure do.
Like I said earlier this is an incredibly reliable fishery that’s easy to access.  Use some common sense and have fun.  

 

 

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