Shark Week in Florida
Guides advise how to hook some of the 15,000 migrating sharks
A mile and a half off the coast
of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the only noise the crew of the Lady Pamela IV heard on
the breezy afternoon was the slow
troll of the engine and the sea slapping the side of the boat.
There was a sense that something
was about to happen.
Suddenly, a line danced and
“Go, go go!” yelled J.J. Logan,
handling the rods on the first deck, to Darin Tonks, who was in control of the
46-foot charter. Tonks gunned the throttle forward, pulling the lines tight.
The reeling began, and soon a fin sliced through the water.
It wasn’t Jaws. Nor was it a
great white – but the 4-foot silky shark on the line still provided an
adrenaline-packed thrill. Such thrills are ordinary in Florida, particularly in
March when thousands of sharks follow their migratory pattern through warm
waters. March 2013 saw 15,000
sharks off the Florida coast – all at one time.
Click the image for shark fishing photos
Hunter sharks from the Eastern
seaboard make their pilgrimage South from the Carolinas to Georgia and spend
the winter south of Florida,” said Steve Kajiura, a biological sciences professor
who runs the Elasmobranch Research Laboratory at Florida Atlantic University in
Boca Raton, Fla. “And in the spring, they move back North, distributing
themselves along the coast.”
Kajiura said that his team has
been performing aerial surveys for the past two years, which enables them to
calculate the shark population during the migration.
“Because the Gulf Stream is so
strong, the sharks don’t want to fight the current, and they hug the shore,”
Kajiura said. “If you stood on the beach, you could throw a rock and hit a
According to Geno Pratt, captain of Geno IV Charters in
Boynton Beach, Fla., the annual influx of sharks doesn’t have a detrimental
effect on the South Florida fishery.
Rules of the Game
Some of Florida’s largest shark catches came decades before
regulations were enacted. According to the South Florida Shark Club, a handful
of records are as follows: a 152-pound Blacktip caught in Sebastian in 1987, a
397-pound lemon caught in Dunedin, and a 686-pound white shark caught Key West
Currently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission lists 25 species of sharks as protected, including yearly Florida
frequents such as the great hammerhead, lemon, longfin mako, silky, white and tiger
Shark. Only natural bait is allowed when fishing, and sharks must have 54
inches of a minimum fork length to keep. The maximum take is one shark per
harvester per day or 2 per vessel, or whichever is less.
Shark fining, a popular act fishing overseas in which sharks
are killed for their fins mainly for shark fin soup, has been a large culprit
in the depletion of sharks on a global scale. Estimates range from 30 to 100
million sharks are killed annually.
The act in Florida, as well as several other states, is
illegal, because of its detrimental effects to the shark population. Several of
the species, despite the regulations, are still overfished when compared to
According to the Florida Saltwater Fishing Regulations, “NOAA
Fisheries determined the northwest Atlantic stock of scalloped hammerheads was
overfished ... other species, including the great and smooth hammerhead and the
tiger shark, have also suffered a greater than 50 percent decline in population
As long as the rules are known, a day of safe shark fishing
will go smoothly, and without consequence.
everyone to catch, picture, and release,” said William Fundora, the
administrator for the South Florida Shark Club. “We can’t control sharks in
other nations. We just have to set the standard.”
Inshore and Offshore Preparations
For Randy Meyers, author of Surf
Fishing: The Quick Start Guide to the Exciting Sport, the key to
shark fishing is simple from the beach: experience.
“There’s nothing like time on
the water,” Meyers said. “Only then do you get a sense of what to do on a
particular catch and how to react.”
The most important point to
know, learned by Meyers on the water, is to be aware of the size of the leader.<
“The length needs to be 6 to 8
feet so line doesn’t get cut,” he said. “If you’re fishing with a 3-foot leader
and you hook a 4-foot shark and it starts to tail whip, it could cut your line
in a heartbeat.”
Meyers said to come prepared
with a medium to medium heavy rod, along with braided line. Fishing at night
gives you the best percentage to hook a decent shark as well.
During the night, sharks come
in closer to the shore, and some may be in casting range,” he said. “For the
bigger sharks that are further out, have a bait casting reel, along with a
kayak, which allows you to go out and drop the baits.”
Any type of cut bait will
suffice and, depending on the tide, you can throw out chum to attract more
sharks. Rigs with a wire leader and sharp hook can be bought or made at home
with the help of demo videos online.
Reeling in a shark offshore,
especially on a charter, is “relatively simple,” according to Pratt. “Get in front of the school and put live bait on the
bottom. Sharks also like to pick up dead bait blue runner Bonita, and blue
Feeling the Thrill
Once you’ve reeled in a shark, whether you bring it on the
sand or into the boat, keep a distance between yourself and the animal until it
In the case of the silky shark on board the Lady Pamela IV,
Logan placed a tag on the endangered species, snapped some quick photos and released
Whether you reel in a protected species or snag a future
record, you’ll see that there’s nothing like catching one the most fickle
animals on the planet.