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Shark Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Steve on Saturday, 21 January 2012. Posted in Fish Info

Miami Hammerhead SharkSharks are of the genus Selachii from the family Salachimorpha and there are many varieties of them in all the oceans of the world that fit into numerous sub-families. These animals date as far back as 420 million years and have not evolved too much during all that time. This is simply because they are such efficient predators and have had no need to adapt in order to survive. The biggest shark on earth is the whale shark which can grow to around 39ft in length, while the dwarf lanternshark is the smallest and can be found measuring only 17cm. Sharks can be found near the surface or in extreme depths of 6 600ft and although they are primarily saltwater fish, there are a few that can survive comfortably in freshwater such as the bull shark and the river shark.

Many of the most well-known sharks are apex predators and survive at the top of their food chain. These include hammerhead sharks, great white sharks, tiger sharks, shortfin mako sharks, bull sharks and blue sharks, among others. Teeth are embedded into their gums instead of affixed to their jaws. These teeth are replaced continuously throughout their lives, moving to replace lost teeth in a manner much the same as a conveyor belt. Some sharks can lose up to 30 000 teeth during their lifetime. Their diet determines their tooth shape. Dense, flattened teeth crush molluscs and crustaceans, while fish feeders have sharp needle-like teeth for gripping. Those that eat larger prey such as mammals grip with pointed lower teeth while their upper ones are sharp and serrated for cutting. Plankton feeders have small, non-functional teeth such as those found in basking sharks.

Sharks have cartilaginous skeletons that are comprised of cartilage and connective tissue, as opposed to bones found in other fish. Cartilage is lighter than bone with only half the density, saving sharks energy in the weight that they carry. On land, sharks can be crushed by their own weight due to their lack of rib cages. Underwater, they are more flexible and can make sudden, sharp movements with ease. Another interesting feature is their jaw which is not attached to their cranium. It needs extra support because of the continual physical stress it endures. Instead, blocks of calcium salts called tesserae are arranged in tiny hexagonal plates that give strength and flexibility to absorb shock. The bigger the shark, the more layers of these plates there are.

The skeleton of a shark fin is long and has filaments of elastic protein similar to keratin found in feathers and hair. This gives support to all eight fins because sharks are unable to swim backwards and can only move forwards. Their skin consists of a complex dermal corset that is comprised of collagenous fibres that surround the body in a helical network. This functions as an outer skeleton and provides attachment to their muscles. This saves them vast amounts of energy and makes them more streamlined in the water, helping to increase their speed. Their tails provide the thrust needed for speed and acceleration but they vary in shape between shark species. The dorsal portion of the tail is much bigger than the ventral portion because the vertebral column extends into the dorsal fin and provides a greater area for muscle attachment. This allows for more efficient movement among these negatively buoyant and cartilaginous fish.

There is a massive variety of these awesome predators in the western Atlantic Ocean, all through the Caribbean and on to South America, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Shark fishing in Florida is phenomenally popular among sports fishing enthusiasts who take up the challenge in these waters. Here are some tips for catching sharks in Florida:

Tackle for Sharks

Good quality fishing gear is essential for catching these powerful and enormous fish. Ensure you have many cable leaders, large shark hooks, rope and chum. 6/0 to 12/0 reels loaded with between 50lbs and 80lbs test is optimal. Safety is paramount, take no shortcuts. You will need a good sized, quality gaff and a harpoon with between 100ft and 300ft of rope attached.

Bait for Sharks

All kinds of bait can be used. Frozen bait and lures included. Ideally, fresh bait put into the bait tank is the best bait to use. Squid, tuna, sardines, anchovies and any number of small fish can be used. A plump mackerel is simply irresistible. Tuna love them too and there are always sharks following tuna.

How to handle Shark Bait

It is important that you do not handle your bait directly. Humans have a distinct smell and if you handle even one of your bait fish, you will contaminate all of them. Once brought onboard, use the handle of a spoon to twist the hook out of its mouth and let it drop directly into the bait tank, which also keeps them fresh.

Tips for catching Sharks

  • Finding sharks is the same as finding tuna. Many game fish love areas where colder water meets warmer water and the Gulf Stream has several of these spots. Where you find game fish, there will be sharks because they prey on them. Finding these areas relies on monitoring your water temperate gauge. It can be very productive to troll or chum along underwater ledges, drop offs, wrecks, reefs or other structures. Once you find these spots, mark them for future reference.
  • Should you come across tuna schooling or dolphins, get your boat out in front of them and get your lines into the water. Sharks love eating stragglers and will undoubtedly be following them. Tuna follow dolphins, and sharks follow tuna. You can catch a couple of tasty tuna before chumming immediately after for sharks.
  • Rig heavy gear beforehand. It must be ready to toss before you arrive at the fishing grounds. Have light spinning gear ready to catch more bait fish that are attracted to your chum line. Place your chum bucket in the water and pull up and down on the line every few minutes. This will shake the particles out and disperse your chum nicely. If your chum is frozen, it may take a few minutes to defrost. The chum will start drifting in a noticeable line which is where you want to put your rigs. Pre-rigged double shark hooks work exceptionally well and your bait fish should be hooked through the nose and the gut before being thrown into the chum line. You can use rubber bands to fasten hooks alongside the body of small bait fish. Once around the gills and another around the tail is optimal. This will make your bait swim unnaturally and it will attract every shark within a mile. Sharks consider struggling, weakened or sick fish particular easy to catch and they are attracted by the noise. Equipping your shark hook rigs with a heavy duty rattle is extremely effective. When trolled bait begins to slow down, you can rig it onto a floating drift rig to keep it near the surface. Sharks are often enticed into biting on these.
  • Your rods will soon start bending beautifully with a shark on them. Take your time and exhilarate in the experience of fighting these beasts. There is no rush. The goal is to tire them out as much as possible. A big shark will do extensive damage to you and your boat in short order, so heed this advice.
  • At this point, your pre-rigged tail rope becomes extremely helpful. When the shark is significantly tired out, position it along the side of the boat which should be slowly moving forward. Hold the head of the shark steady by the leader line and loop the tail rope over its head. The forward motion of the boat and the current will help in slipping the loop over the shark’s body until it reaches the tail. Tighten the noose and tie it off to a cleat. Your shark will quickly become tame and less unruly after being dragged backwards by its tail.

Sharks are fighters and they are immensely challenging. These animals have no desire to become dinner and they will hurt you as soon as they get a chance. Neutralize all sharks before handling them directly. This will also prevent untold damage to your boat.

Call today to book your Shark Fishing Charter in Florida and meet this predator.


About the Author

Capt. Steve

Captain Steve's Bio

Steve was born in Bethesda, Maryland but has spent most of his life in South Florida.  Currently residing in Fort Lauderdale, Captain Steve is a partner in Ocean Brands LLC and operates VIP Fishing Charters.  Over the years Steve has cemented relationships with the top fishing captains and best fishing boats.  His mission when creating VIP Fishing Charters was to make sure every client has the best experience possible regardless of the conditions.  You can often times find Steve waiting at the dock after you arrive back from your fishing charter, making sure everyone had a great time and you caught a ton of fish!

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