Down in the Florida Keys there are several thrilling ways to spend your vacation, but up there on the list is shark fishing. Imagine fighting and reeling in one of the most feared predators in the ocean!
What kind of sharks are in the Key West waters?
Sharks are popular to catch because of their sheer fierceness as an apex predator, but also because of the fight that they put up when caught. In the waters surrounding Key West fishermen hope to catch blacktips and spinner sharks which put up a strong and aerobatic fight, lemon sharks found in the flats, bonnet heads that will spool a line at first snag and numerous others including nurse sharks, bull sharks, brown sharks, sandbar sharks, finetooth sharks, blacknose sharks and Atlantic sharpnose sharks.
Where are they caught?
While many think that sharks need to be caught out in the deep blue water, a large number of shark fishermen fish for them in just 6 feet of water. Sharks tend to hang around shallower areas to hunt, but prefer areas where access to deeper, safer waters is readily available.
What kind of bait is best?
For shark fishing, the more blood the better. When blood enters the water it makes a “crackling” sound which is the blood cells rupturing, so sharks can “hear” that meal coming! While sharks like a lot of blood in the water, they prefer it to be fresh blood; they aren’t a fan of rancid bait. Fresh bait is best for chumming and to bait a hook.
Fish-wise, bonito is favorable because it is a very bloody fish. Blue fish, small tuna, jacks, mackerel, mullet and even barracuda make good bait. It is important not to chum too much as the shark will take this free meal and leave your hooks alone, defeating the purpose.
Getting a good chum slick going is important though; sharks will smell it down-current and head up to see what is for lunch. Another main attraction for sharks is a struggling live fish. Sharks can detect a fish in distress and will come in for an easy meal so if a wounded fish is hooked as bait, it might quickly attract a predator.
Rod and Reel
For shark fishing it is best not to skimp on rod and reel. The sturdier the better as sharks tend to do a serious amount of thrashing. On the reel, the minimum amount of line is 175-200 yards as the first run of a shark might take a considerable amount of line. Of course circumstances vary, but a good shark line to use is monofilament since it has pretty good stretch in it. This will allow a little play in the line to absorb the constant thrashing of the shark as it is reeled in.
As with any type of fishing, the release of the fish to ensure it will live is very important. It is best to have two people, one to hold the shark while the other removes the hook. If there is a desire for a picture be sure to hold the fish firmly, but carefully so not to do an internal damage, behind its head and at its tail. The gaff can be used to pull the hook. If the hook cannot be pulled, bolt cutters may be used to cut the hook out or if even this is not possible, cut the line as close to the hook as possible. Obviously it is preferable to set the shark free with no new piercings. When releasing the shark, hold it by its dorsal fin until it swims away on its own.
While there are many ways to get the adrenaline pumping, shark fishing is up there with its thrills! Apex predator versus apex predator. Key West is a mecca for shark fishing year round!