Sharks are great fun to catch if you have the right gear, Typically I use a 7-foot, 40-60-pound spinning rod; 80-pound braided line; 8000 size spinning reels; No. 9 solid wire; 100-pound swivels; and a cheap commercial 11/0 circle hook. Please do not use any stainless hooks as you will inevitably break a few fish off. Circle hooks are great because they work very well and the sharks are not usually gut hooked. I use a single circle hook and attach that to 2 feet of No. 9 wire and then the swivel. I bait that hook up with anything fresh or live. I usually use menhaden but I have caught them on pinfish as well. You want a bait about the size of your hand. I have found some days live bait works best and other days dead works best. You will just have to find out which one works best on that day.
The most productive way to shark fish is behind the shrimp boats. The best place is right outside New River Inlet early in the morning. Once you see a shrimp boat pull up behind it (not too close) and look for sharks. They will be brown looking in the water. You will see lots of porpoises too. Remember that porpoises fins dip up and down in the water sharks usually stay up in a straight line. Watch the shrimpers who are culling the bycatch off the back of the boat and wait for them to dump a big load. Once they do keep an eye on that spot and you will usually see the sharks feeding heavily. Cast your bait into the chaos and let it drift as naturally as possible. Remember you are using a circle hook so do not set the hook just let the fish come tight on the line and hang on. Fight them with as much power as you can muster.
Once they are whipped (you may be as well) I grab them by the tail and drag them in the boat. Make sure everyone is out of the way because the shark will be snapping at anything it can get to. I keep a pair of 3-foot long bolt cutters on the boat to cut the hook in half. I then use the bolt cutters to remove the other half of the hook. We take a few quick pictures and release it. Yes some sharks can be kept, but shark identification is tough as many of them look alike. If you wish to keep one, I suggest you really study up on them and the laws.
Now grabbing a 7-foot, very mad shark by the tail is not for the inexperienced. If you are not confident in your abilities you can get bitten this way (I never have been except as a youth on the pier); you can cut the hook in half alongside the boat and the other half will fall out shortly if you are worried about your abilities to wrestle a shark into the boat — but for goodness sake never gaff anything you are not going to eat.
I love and respect sharks. They are powerful, beautiful and important creatures in the food chain. I have seen many people kill sharks because they perceive them as a danger. This is wrong thinking as everything out there has its own place in the food chain.
This past week, the fishing has been excellent. We have seen good numbers of spot and red drum from the surf with an occasional flounder. The red drum fishing in the backwaters has been great as well as the flounder bite. Nearshore all the sharks you could ever want as well as some decent numbers of Spanish. The seabass have been on the feed in the 5-12 mile range. Some kings showing up at the 28-mile mark. The mahi continue to feed heavily in the Gulf Stream. The piers are seeing a mixed bag of spot, mullet and croaker on the bottom. The flounder bite has been good but not many keepers. The tarpon are now on the beach for all the king anglers on the end.
Tight lines and fair winds.
Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.