August is a great time to target sharks in the Southwest Region. You can catch these fish on wrecks, in the passes and around migrating schools of baitfish or gamefish. There’s also a good concentration of fish around the grass flats during the lower stages of the tides.
We have a good mixture of shark species in my region, everything from nurse sharks to blacktip sharks, bull sharks, hammerheads and even the occasional tiger shark. The blacktip, nurse and bull sharks are what we find inshore, while we get all those species offshore.
Sharks will eat a wide variety of live or dead baits, but your best odds of drawing them to the boat are by using chum. Anything from ground chum to chunks of mullet, bonito or ladyfish will work, and a lot of shark fishermen use a combination of the two. They’ll hang a chum bag off the back of the boat or butterfly a Spanish mackerel, barracuda or bonito and hang it off the back. At the same time, they’ll cut mullet, ladyfish, bonito or other fish into chunks and throw them out around the boat. Then they’ll bait up with a half a mullet, a chunk of bonito or even a live mullet or blue runner.
The scent of all that chum in the water will bring the sharks to the boat, where they’ll start feeding on the chunks that have been tossed out in the area. Eventually, they’ll find the hooked bait. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for the chum to work. On the flats you can fish 30-pound tackle because most of the fish are under 100 pounds.
You can also do the same thing around the passes, chumming along the edges of the passes and then surrounding your boat with chunk baits and hooked baits. You’ll get a lot of the larger bull sharks in these areas along with the occasional hammerhead shark, so you want to go to 50 to 80 pound tackle.
The same when fishing offshore around the wrecks. You can expect to encounter bull sharks up to 400 pounds or more, along with the occasional hammerhead or tiger, and the wrecks in this region are covered with Goliath grouper, so you don’t want to go under-tackled. Anchor up, chum liberally and put out baits on the surface and bottom and you’ll get your fish.
A lot of shark fishermen like to use one to three feet of #8 to #10 wire with another six to ten feet of 120 pound hard monofilament as their leader. You can use all wire, but with the mono you can take a few wraps around the leader when the shark is close to the boat. For hooks, you want a 10/0 to 12/0 4X strong circle hook, you can drop down to a 6/0 or 8/0 hook for fishing inshore. The circle hook will keep the sharks from swallowing the hook. You’ll catch them in the corner of the mouth, which keeps the wire and monofilament away from their teeth and also makes it easier to remove the hook.
A lot of anglers will cut the wire above the hook when they get the shark to the side of the boat, but I like to use a dehooking device like an ARC Dehooker. They make a long-handled one that’s perfect for dehooking sharks alongside the boat.
You can watch the full episode and others on our website, www.floridainsiderfishingreport.com, and click on the Videos Tab.Captain Tips