Calling all adventure junkies! *Cue Jaws theme song*
Have you ever hunted for an apex predator? As in a big, muscular, elusive shark?
*Duunnn dunnn. . . Duuunnn duun. . . Duunnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnn dunnn*
No!? Then you've been missing out!
Shark fishing charters are continuing to gain popularity as one of the best recreational excursions off both coasts of the U.S.
It's a fun, fulfilling, and challenging sport. It's enticing because let's admit, you have to work a little (or a lot) harder to catch a shark than for a fish.
It involves careful thought and some muscle of your own. It's a calculated effort. But there's no better feeling than that adrenaline rush while reeling in a big one.
We've compiled a list of shark fishing tips that anyone can use, whether it's your first time, or not.
Let's dive in!
Recreational Shark Fishing in the U.S.
We mentioned that recreational shark fishing has become more popular and prevalent recently. There's a reason for that!
The thrill of the catch is one of them. A shark is a body of thick muscle, and you've gotta work for it. That makes a successful catch an extremely rewarding one.
And it doesn't take much to fish for sharks. In fact, shark fishermen (and fisherwomen) use little more than a sturdy rod and reel with braided line. There are accessories that make the catch smoother, but it comes down to simplicity.
In the last two decades, shark fishers have focused on smaller prey. And we'll mention that even smaller prey is pretty darn big. Blacktips and spinners average 30-60 pounds!
The size range is large, though. An offshore trip could land you sharks weighing anywhere from 125-400 pounds! Nailing these big sharks is a true trophy for any angler - can you imagine the amount of effort involved to catch a 400 pound shark?
Taking a deep-sea charter is a great way to land a variety of species. In the deep seas is where you'll find tiger and bull sharks. Boggy Bayou's biggest deep-sea catch was a 765-pound tiger shark.
Think you've got what it takes to catch something five-times your size? If you like the idea of a challenge, then shark fishing needs to be on your bucket list.
For shark fishing to remain as popular and accessible as it is, most anglers will "catch and release." Yes - that means putting your catch back in the water.
Some types of sharks are good to eat and legal to keep. For those, we recommend taking the meat and truly appreciating every bite. There's nothing admirable about killing for fun - we won't do it!
For the purposes of this article, we'll focus on the fun part of shark fishing in Florida.
Why Book a Charter in Destin, Florida?
Destin, Florida has some of the best shark fishing in the entire world! In fact, Destin used to hold annual shark fishing tournaments every single summer. And it ended with a big bang in 2006 - with that 765-pounder we mentioned.
You didn't think you could top that weight anyway, right?
If you're interested in trying, then Destin, Florida is your place. A nickname that originated in 1956 has stuck: "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village." This was because one Governor so aptly called it that after a fantastic fishing trip.
The conversation went something like this -
Interviewer: "[It's] hard to believe that you could head out and return to the dock with a 19-pound king mackerel within 15 minutes."
Gov. Leroy Collins: "Not if you're fishing out of Destin!"
And there's a reason for that. Destin has a huge drop-off right offshore. A thirty-minute trip can get you right into the depths of the ocean.
Deep sea fishing in Tampa? Not happening unless you drive miles and miles offshore. Destin's trips are short and sweet - so you can spend more time fishing than boating to your fishing spot.
So, why consider hiring a private charter like Boggy Bayou Guide Services?
Imagine this scenario: you're 50 miles offshore with a one-engine boat and no one's with you. There's a storm approaching; you're having engine problems. The potential for danger is very real.
On a charter trip, you'll be with an experienced crew. And in Destin, you won't be so offshore that help is miles or hours away. In as little as a couple miles, you're in some of the most accessible deep water that Florida has to offer.
So, you've chosen a professional fishing charter. How can you make the most of your experience? Check out these shark fishing tips.
1. Know Your Equipment
We mentioned that little is required to catch sharks besides a spinning rod and reel. Of course, this isn't your average $5 buy from Walmart. We're talking about heavy-duty equipment that can take survive struggle of a shark.
Technology has made it so that smaller rods are now as sturdy as their larger counterparts. If you're purchasing your own reel, consider getting one that can hold hundreds of yards of line. This will ensure that the shark doesn't pull all your line, leaving you empty-handed.
When it comes to your line, shark fishers swear by braided lines. These are stronger, able to absorb more shock, and longer-lasting. The reinforcement of the braided line is crucial for dealing with a big catch.
As well as braided line, monofilament is another must when shark fishing. Expert fishermen swear by its stretch, which prevents breaking on big game. A direct, heavy hit on braided line could be a disaster to your rod.
Monofilament is also harder to detect by sharks, as it has low visibility underwater.
Can't decide between the two? Then try combining both.
You should also consider a wire leader, which is good for fishing for anything with teeth. Wire leaders hold up in the face of teeth, more than monofilament or braided line. They are sturdy and make setting the hook easier, too.
The hooks should be large circle hooks (as opposed to J hooks) that are easy to set and easy to remove from the mouth.
Don't feel like investing in all your own equipment yet? One of the greatest parts about booking a charter is that the necessary tackle is provided. The crew will supply rods, reels, and line that is adequate for catching big game.
2. Know Your Shark Species
Depending on how long your charter is, you may be able to try a variety of fishing tactics. Near shore, drift and sight fishing will catch you species such as blacktips and spinners. These are fun to catch and provide a challenge as well as a show (hence the name spinner!).
For sight fishing, it's always smart to keep a pitch-bait pole at the ready. This is so that you can drop a quick line for close and/or unexpected encounters.
But offshore anchor fishing is where it's at if you want to catch the big guys and gals. This is where you'll spot bull, tiger, dusky, and sandbar sharks. And that's only naming a few of many.
In this case, you'll anchor near an area where sharks are prevalent: reefs, wrecks, ledges. More on that later, in "Consider Structures."
If you're lucky, you could happen upon the Mako shark - one of the largest apex predators in the entire ocean.
This shark, also known as the "falcon of the seas," is one of the fastest species of sharks out there. These guys are vicious, dangerous to unaware fish, and strong as heck. When hunting, they hit their prey with such bottom force that they're sometimes catapulted into nearby boats.
They eat over 3% of their body weight every single day.
Cobia and tarpon are a Mako shark's yummiest meal. Because of this, it's always smart to keep a pole handy during cobia or tarpon fishing trips.
Mako sharks put on quite a show when they're caught. They jump and twist through the air, a true "High Flying Adventure." Catching one of these is an amazing feat - and a yummy treat. Mako nuggets are a local favorite.
3. Watch Nature's Behavior
One of the easiest ways to detect a shark's presence is by watching the behavior of nature in the area.
Keep an eye on the activity of birds and fish. What is their movement like? Do you notice birds hunting nearby?
This is a sure sign of bait fish below the surface. You can use the bait fish for two things: to catch and use, or to watch and learn. If a school of bait fish suddenly flees the scene, there may be something large lurking nearby.
4. Consider Structures
Sharks love to hangout in underwater structures.
This includes, and is not limited to, wrecks, reefs, ledges, holes, piers, and bottom pieces. If fishing near a pier, try to get your boat near the cleaning stations. This is where fish scraps fall right into the hungry mouths of sharks.
5. Shark Bait
Sharks love oily, smelly fish. Many species of fish fall into this category. Sharks also prefer fresh fish (for obvious reasons), so keep that in mind when opting to use live or dead bait.
Some shark favorites are mackerel and bluefish. Bunker is another popular option but is also enjoyed by bluefish. So when using bunker as bait, you may attract more bluefish than you want to.
A favorite technique for attracting sharks is chumming. This is the act of putting cut up bait in buckets and allowing their scent to attract big catches.
It sounds easy - and it's definitely effective - but careful thought goes into it. Too much chum and you're feeding the fish, making them less prone to bite your hook. Too little and your scent isn't powerful enough to overcome other scents.
Chum buckets must be smartly placed around the boat. And bait should ideally get kept at the same level as the chum line.
When hooking your bait, one hook is enough for smaller pieces. For larger pieces, such as whole fish, consider using two hooks: one in the mouth and one in the tail. This will up your odds of catching the shark instead of giving it free food.
Something else to consider: a skirt above your bait. This helps conceal the hook (sharks are smart creatures!) and it adds that alluring movement.
6. Come Prepared
How else can you best prepare for an adventure, other than we've discussed?
Show up ready for an excursion. This means bringing any of the following:
- Sunglasses and a hat, for sun protection
- Sunscreen Jackets or rain gear (because yes, it can rain, and yes, it can get cold!)
- Lots of water, plus any other beverages you'd like. Most charters don't allow glass, for obvious reasons
- A camera, for taking a photo of your trophy
- A good attitude and a friendly demeanor
Charter crews love to bond with their clients, especially on shark fishing trips. Exciting times, and memories are being made. So don't be afraid to bond with your captain and crew!
The rest is provided for you: bait, tackle, fishing licenses. It's as easy as that!
7. The Favorite of Our Shark Fishing Tips: Practice Conservation
Your captain and crew will come out with de-hookers and/or release sticks. Release sticks allow you to remove the hook from a distance. And since sharks are unpredictable and strong, it's always smart to have extras.
Whenever possible, remove the hook from the shark's mouth. This increases the odds of their survival once you release them. If this isn't possible, use de-hookers or wire cutters to disconnect as much as possible.
The Sharks Are Waiting
We hope these shark fishing tips got you excited for the adventure that's to come. At Boggy Bayou Guide Services, we're ready to take you on the best shark fishing trip in Destin, Florida.
Ready for some further preparation? Check out our article on everything you need to know about deep sea fishing in Destin, or give us a call!