Targeting Sharks in the East Region with Capt. Mike Holliday

Sharks are one of the those species that you can catch inshore, offshore or from the beach in my region. The best stuff takes place fairly close to shore with blacktip, bull and the occasional great hammerhead shark, although if you’re looking for something exotic like a tiger shark or mako, then you really have to get out into the Gulf Stream to get that catch done.

From Late August through the first week of November, the mullet migrate along the beaches of the East Region, and that brings a lot of sharks (particularly blacktips and spinner sharks) right up to shore to feed. At times, some of these schools of mullet may be a mile or so long, extending from the beach out 50 feet or so, and with that much available food, the sharks can’t stand it, and come in close to the beach to feed.

Beach fishing for sharks is not to be taken lightly. These fish can exceed 400 pounds, some can jump and they all can take off on blistering runs that will dump a spool of line so you want a reel that can hold at least 400 yards of line, I like something that can hold 600 yards of line or more so I know It’s going to take a huge fish to empty the spool.

The tackle you use for targeting the sharks depends on what you’re trying to accomplish—are you trying to catch a spinner or blacktip shark, or are you going after the big boys, the bulls, dusky and hammerheads. Spinner and blacktip sharks average around 100 pounds in the fall, so you can get away with 30-50 pound braided line. You want something very abrasion resistant, which is why I like the Sufix 832 braid. For the bigger sharks, 80-150 pound line is going to be key to landing these fish.

A lot of anglers like to use 15 feet of #8 to #12 piano wire, but I like to use only about three feet of #8 wire tied to a swivel and then 10 feet of 100-pound monofilament. Long leaders make it impossible to cast a bait, and for the most part the shark only gets up to a foot of the leader in it’s mouth, so you really don’t need a long piece of wire. Also, wire is a lot harder and more dangerous to handle when the shark is in close.

 If chasing blacktip and spinner sharks, I like an 8/0 6X strong VMC Tournament Circle Hook or an 8/0 VMC Dynacut Offshore Hook. For larger sharks, it’s the 12/0 VMC Dynacut Offshore Hook.

Bait is anything from a mullet with the head cut off and the hook placed in the back to a chunk of bonito, a whole small jack crevalle, ladyfish or barracuda. Stingrays are another good bait for the larger sharks which prey on them regularly.

The best beach fishing for sharks is going to take place close to the inlets or on the desolate stretches of shoreline where there are not a lot of people. Some of the better beaches in my area for shark fishing are North Beach in Fort Pierce, in front of the St. Lucie Power Plant, the House of Refuge in Stuart, Pecks Lake and the north side of Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Jupiter and Palm Beach inlets.

One of the reasons the inlet areas are so productive are that the mullet schools migrating south along the beaches encounter the rock jetties as they encounter the inlet areas. These jetties bottle up the baitfish and disorient them making them easy targets for the feeding sharks.

Dawn and dusk have the mullet on the move, and the sharks will gather in these areas to corral the baitfish against the rocks, where they’ll go on a feeding spree. A live or dead mullet in the middle of this melee won’t last long.

The majority of sharks you’ll catch in these areas will be blacktip and spinner sharks (given their name because they jump and spin when hooked), although it’s pretty common to catch bull sharks to 400-pounds, great hammerheads and the occasional dusky or sand tiger.

The best shark fishing from the beach will take place at night, when the fish come into the shallows to feed, but you can do well on sharks during the daytime as well. It seems like most of the larger fish are caught at night.

If you catch a shark and decide you want to land it for a picture, keep in mind that sharks don’t have bones, they have cartilage, and thus can bite their own tails. So grabbing a shark by the tail doesn’t mean it can’t spin around a bite you. And sharks are fast, so handle them with care, get your picture and get the fish back into the water as quickly as possible.

Sharks play a valuable role in the balance of the marine environment. While some are good to eat, you should take only what you can eat in a few days time and release all the other sharks healthy so that they can thin out the weak of the schools.


Captain Tips