Shark Fishing on Steroids

Larry 'n NassauOver the years that I’ve been salt water fishing I’ve caught any number of sharks. I always told myself while swimming in the ocean that sharks were not common and hung out further at sea. That myth got busted when I began fishing in the very waters I once swam in.

The most common shark is the dogfish and is a valued food source. If you do any bottom fishing in and around the coast of North Carolina you’ll eventually hook up a dogfish. They are so common they are considered a nuisance. I don’t target sharks and all I’ve caught have simply been coincidence. The only exception was a couple of years ago when I deliberately rigged up to catch a shark from a pier in North Carolina. The result was the largest fish I’ve ever caught, a 120 lb spinner shark on a rig that many would use to fish for larger fresh water catfish.

I recently paid an evening visit to the Gulf of Mexico’s longest fishing pier at Navarre, Florida. At the far end was a group of five men armed with very heavy-duty rigs consisting of 6′ graphite rods and 10-12″ geared reels spooled with 125 lb test braided line. Each line was terminated with a 15′ piece of 900 lb test mono-filament leader followed by a 6′ solid steel wire leader and a huge stainless steel “circle” hook. The large mono-filament leader is necessary to keep the braided line away from the shark’s sandpaper like skin.

When I first arrived on scene two of the men were cutting a large 4′ stingray into several chunks. I assumed they were preparing the ray to be taken home for the grill. Instead  these chunks were destined to become shark bait.

I had never been around anyone deliberately targeting large sharks and after considering all that was going on I soon asked myself the question, “How the hell are they going to get all this stuff into the water and out to where the big boys roam?” Rigs of this nature simply cannot be cast like a bass plug on a typical bait casting outfit. For a few seconds I considered that maybe they intended to twirl the baited leader around their heads and toss it out like a cowboy would toss a lasso. The answer was ingenious and involved a little modern technology.

One of these guys had taken a small plastic kayak, cut it in half, and modified the rear end so it had an open stern. Inside the boat’s cavity he had installed a large waterproof case that held a battery used to power a small remote-controlled trolling motor. When all was ready they lowered the kayak into the water and backed it up to the pier. One by one a fisherman would lower his baited hook into the kayak and once positioned the joy stick operator would run the baited line out some 500′. Once in position the guy controlling the rod would stop the free-wheeling and pull the baited hook off the opened stern of the kayak. To get all the rigs in place took the better part of an hour, lots of muscle power, and more than a ton of patience.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to stay around to see what their efforts resulted in. The pier closed to the public at 10 p.m. and I had to leave. They had special permission to stay but would be locked in for the night. One did tell me that the night before they had caught three large sharks, a bull, a black tip, and a nurse, but I didn’t get a chance to ask how big they were.

It was fascinating to watch these guys go about their chosen type of fishing but not once did I want to become a part of it. Years ago I hooked a very large stingray and fought it for well over an hour. The fight ended with my pole breaking into pieces and the fish going it’s merry way. That was fun for about fifteen minutes, until my arms, back, and abs, began to burn from the strain. I would have cut the fish free had there not been several other fishing boats watching me and cheering me on. My manhood was on trial and surrender wasn’t an option.

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