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Great time to go for that shark

September 4, 2010

Every year many clients want to tangle with a shark and right now is a great time to do so.

While our waters hold sharks year-around, some of the biggest ones arrive with the tarpon migration and stay till the tarpon head farther south for the winter.

We have sharks of all sizes, up to a 1,000 pounds and beyond, available to stretch your line, your back and your tackle. Many folks don't realize just how many sharks inhabit our shallow waters.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Take a small plane ride over Pine Island Sound or up and down most beaches in Florida and you will see bathers and sharks. Fortunately, sharks don't usually seek out humans for food, but once in a while a bather or surfer is bitten. When you play in the ocean remember, you are a guest.

Shark fishing is relativity simple. The key is chumming. Chum can be as simple as cut up fish chunks thrown in the water or frozen blocks of homemade or commercial chum blocks suspended from the boat's transom. I like to use frozen chum and add menhaden oil to the water a little at a time. This creates a long slick carried by the current and calls in the shark from a long way off.

Now that you have his interest what will you use to catch him?

Shark tackle can range from a medium-action spinning rod with 20-pound test mono and a 50-pound test wire leader, to super-stout tackle and a stand-up harness or fighting chairs. Pick your tackle to match the fish size and your level of experience. Whichever you chose, the wire leader is a must. Wire leaders can be single-strand 20-pound test piano wire to 400- to 500-pound test stranded cable.

Always be prepared

A good all-purpose starter outfit would be a tarpon rod spooled with 60-pound braided line. Attach your line to a good quality swivel (Spro) then attach the wire leader to the swivel with a Haywire Twist wire knot. Try 200-pound test single-strand wire which will allow you to land a fairly large shark.

I use 8- to 10-foot length leaders. Cable connections are attached with a crimping tool. At the other end of the leader attach the hook with the same Haywire Twist wire knot. Hook sizes can range from 3/0 for small sharks to 14/0 and larger, monster hooks. I prefer circle hooks as it's safer for the fish and the fisherman. Again, match the tackle to the fish and don't be afraid to experiment.

Sharks will take live and dead baits, lures and flies. A chunk of or whole bonito, jack, ray, barracuda, bluefish, ladyfish, mullet, are all great dead baits. A live jack or ladyfish work great swimming in the chum slick behind the boat. Try a live one on a balloon float and dead bait on the bottom to cover the water column.

A fired-up shark at the back of the boat will take a plug or fly, but when using plugs with treble hooks, remove the trebles and replace with a single J hook. I don't recommend plug fishing because even with a single hook it's hard to remove a half-eaten plug from a bad tempered shark without killing the animal, or losing a hand, or worse. Stick to single-hook baits or flies. A hungry shark in your chum slick will readily take a large fly and test your fly tackle.

Look for sharks in channels adjacent to flats, in the passes, around bridges, practically anywhere. Have patience and let your chum slick work for you. If Jaws is within smelling distance he will seek you out.

If a shark is to be kept for the table, make sure you are prepared with lots of ice. As soon as you land it, it should be bled and iced. Otherwise, carefully release in the water. A big shark brought aboard for pictures is asking for a trip to the emergency room.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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