Florida Keys Shark Fishing
Shark fishing Guide for tourists
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional fisherman, so if you read something that seems inaccurate please email me and I will make corrections
If you are visiting the Keys and love to fish, but do not have cash flow to hire a guide for multiple days. (Like me, at $600 – $1000 a day for guided fishing there is no way I could afford to fish anywhere nears as much as I need to satisfy me)
Of course if your heart is set on catching Sailfish, bonefish, permit etc … frankly if your heart is set on catching any fish I would suggest you hire a guide. The waters of the Keys are big and it can take some serious know-how in order to catch some of the more sought-after fish.
But anyway’s, if you aren’t scared to take a boat out in strange waters, bait your own fishhooks, land your own fish, and risk spending the day cursing, then something you might want to try is shark fishing,
Sharks are all over the place in the Keys: big ones, little ones from sluggish nurse sharks to aggressive bull sharks they are all over the place.
They are dumb and aggressive eaters, and the bigger ones aren’t even scared of boats. They don’t spook and they aren’t line shy. Basically, they are the ideal fish to try to catch if you are new to saltwater fishing or the Keys.
Now you can try all this stuff from a bridge or shore somewhere but I recommend you rent a boat. There are numerous places you can rent a boat in the Keys. It doesn’t really matter how big the boat is, another thing that is great about shark fishing down here is that there are sharks a stone’s throw away from shore (unlike in NY where I am from).
The first thing you will need is chum. Sharks hunt primarily by scent and have been known to swim miles following a scent trail. The best chum for sharks is fresh fish, the bloodier the better.
Where to get the fresh fish, well if you ask a local they will say just catch a barracuda… in my experience, it’s not always that easy. If you fish on the reef there are tons of barracudas hanging out, but in the nearer shore waters although there are still lots of barracudas they seem to be a bit more hip to people and their bad intentions, especially the big barracudas.
So basically you don’t want to base your whole trip on just catching your chum once you leave shore, at least if you are a beginner.
What I suggest is getting the chum ahead of time, and the best way to accomplish this is to look for a party boat that has just came in and offer the mate a few bucks to give you leftovers when they are done cleaning their catch. So far I have never had a mate say no, but they if they do, or if they have a bad day’s catch you can also go to a fish market. You can usually get fish head/carcasses or Bonito fish (which is bloody tuna type fish) for around .50 cents a pound. If you want to ensure a good trip buy a lot, like try to get a whole 5-gallon bucket full before you go out.
You can put the chum in a chum sack or just run some rope thru the head collection and hang them over the side.
Now, where to go.
There are many places you could go to but I would suggest trying to avoid high traffic areas. If you are on the oceanside, chumming off the edge of the flats seems to work well. In fact, this seems to often draw sharks that are huge. But sometimes they take a long time to show up. The best luck I have had is on the bay side look for more open waters. Chumming in the small sounds around Key Largo wasn’t particularly effective but chumming on the bay side of the 7-mile bridge brought hoards of sharks.
If you put enough blood in the water almost anywhere something will eventually show up, but sometimes it may take a couple hours for the sharks to show up. Often times, when they do it, will be more than one, and you never really know what will show up. Anything from a couple 2-foot bonnet heads to half a dozen 200 pound plus monsters.
For bait, a fish head works well or any piece of bloody fish, but something half-alive works even better. Once you have a lot of chum in the water you should get some other visitors. Live jacks, blue runners, small barracuda, pinfish all make good baits for sharks.
You can free line a bait on the bottom or put it under a cork, bobber or balloon, which in the right conditions is pretty neat because you actually see the shark surface and get the bait.
Ok now for tackle
This is sort of tricky. In the bay, for the most part, ideal tackle would range from something that holds a couple hundred yards of 12-pound line to well honestly the sky’s the limit. I found that something that holds about 220 -280 yards of 30lb line seems to work petty well but even then some fish spooled me.
Leader. Obviously, you will need steel leader to fish for sharks. For the little sharks, a couple feet of leader is fine but if you are fishing for something bigger you will need a lot of leaders and heavy leader, like 3 or 4 times the pound test of the mono. So like 30# line or 90# leader. Sharks can break the line by whipping it with their tail, so basically you should have more leader then the length of the shark you are fishing for. This can be a real pain to cast but that’s life.
For hooks, use circle hooks; they are sold all over. If you have never used circle hooks before, they look kind of ridiculous but they work great. You let the shark run with free line for about 3-5 seconds depending on the size of the bait. Then just lock the bail and lean back and its hook sets right in the lip.
If you have questions please post them here and I will answer the best I can