If you’re looking to catch a shark, August is one of the better times of the year to target them in my region. To begin with, the ocean is flat most of the month, unless we get a swell from a storm, so you can run out offshore in a bay boat or even a skiff.
In my region, the shrimp boats are actively working the offshore waters every day throughout the entire region, and all you have to do is find the shrimp boat, and you’ll find plenty of sharks. When the shrimpers check their nets, they dump them on the deck of the boat, and all that bycatch lies on the deck as they sort through it picking out the shrimp. Once they have all the shrimp, the shovel the dead bycatch, which is mostly fish and crabs, over the side. And as the bycatch floats away from the boat, there’s like 15 species of sharks that are there to feed on the easy meal.
I’ve seen big tiger sharks and hammerheads, but the majority of sharks behind the boats are blacktips, spinner sharks and Atlantic sharpnose sharks. The majority of these sharks range in size from 10 to 50 pounds, but there’s plenty of 100 pound blacktips in the mix.
August is also a time when all the pogies (Atlantic menhaden) are schooled up along the beaches, so you can stop on your way out and castnet a bunch of bait. I’ll net up enough to fill my livewells, and then throw the net one more time to have some extra baits to chum with.
The shrimp boat will be working the waters from a half mile out to several miles offshore, and usually just north and just south of St. Augustine Inlet is a hot spot. There’s also a lot of them out of Mayport. Look for the boats that are actively fishing, not the ones that are anchored up. The key here is to find the boats that are fishing, and then as they pull their nets and cull their catch, move behind them and be ready to fish when they dump the bycatch overboard.
The best part about this kind of fishing is that it’s sight fishing. You pick out the shark you want that’s feeding along that bycatch line and cast a bait in front of it. When the boat drops over the bycatch, it floats on the surface, and the sharks just cruise along right on top, eating as they go. If you drop over your trolling motor and slide up along the floating fish, you can just inch along and pick out the shark you want to catch.
The shrimp boats pull their nets for two to three hours at a time, and the sharks are kind of conditioned to follow the boats, so if you find several boats working an area, you can just drift along and start chumming with that extra batch of pogies you netted up and the sharks will be behind your boat pretty quickly.
I really like to target the blacktip and spinner sharks, which run from 50 to 100 pounds, and since we’re picking out the shark we want and casting to it, I like to use seven foot heavy action spinning rods and 6,000 size reels spooled up with 30 to 40 pound braided line tied to a 100 pound swivel, four feet of 150 pound monofilament leader, then a foot of #8 wire and a 7/0 to 10/0 circle hook. You want to have some wire to keep the sharks from biting you off, but since they spin a lot, you want to have the heavy monofilament to keep their skin from cutting the leader. For larger sharks, you can go with 50 to 80 pound gear and a 10 foot wire or cable leader and 12/0 circle hook.
Any time you’re shark fishing, you want to have a plan for what you’re going to do when you get a fish to the boat. Some of these sharks are edible, but I never keep them. I release them all. When you’re using a circle hook, the majority of sharks are going to be hooked in the corner of the mouth, and since they’ve got a face full of teeth and are swinging that head around a lot, I don’t want anything to do with reaching down and removing that hook with a pair of pliers. But I also don’t want to just cut the leader and leave the hook in the shark.
I have a couple of long-handled dehooking tools that I bring along any time I shark fish, and they allow me to reach the hook and push it out without ever having to get my hands close to the sharks mouth. Just push the hook at an angle and it pops out. The shark swims off, and you saved your rig, so all you have to do is bait up and then pick another shark to cast at.Captain Tips