With “Shark Week” being last week on Discovery Channel I thought I might talk a little bit about sharks here at Topsail. Yes, there are sharks in our waters just like there are sharks in every ocean in the world. Sharks are not the indiscriminate killers that the media portrays them to be. I love fishing for them. They are somewhat predictable and a good fight.
If ever a shark had attacked anyone on this island it would be yours truly. As a kid I worked mostly during the day in the summer so most of the surfing I did was at night. I would be out beside the old Barnacle Bills Pier at dusk and surf until 11 or 12 at night. Not only that, I did lots of spear fishing around the pier (not legal to do now) during the day for sheepshead and would have dead bleeding fish hanging off of my stringer for hours at a time. I worked as a mate on a dive charter boat for a long time as well. I would get the divers suited up and then go down myself and shoot grouper, snapper and most anything that I could eat or sell. I only had one encounter in all the years of my offshore diving when a tiger shark looked like he might want my stringer, so, I gave it to him. A shark bit me years ago but it was because I had caught him and he flopped on the pier deck and bit my ankle. He was small and I had on thick pants. I didn’t even get a cool scar to talk about.
Let’s face it, you are much more likely to die in a car wreck on your way to the beach than even see a shark unless you are looking for them. In the United States, 372 people died from lightning strikes last year, 53 people were killed by bees, 85 people were killed by dogs and a whopping 45,078 people died in car wrecks. In contrast, sharks worldwide killed 16 people.
Shrimp boats are a great place to find sharks. While they are “culling” their catch (separating shrimp from all the little fish they catch) sharks have learned there is an easy meal awaiting them. I usually catch a live well full of live menhaden on my way out New River Inlet in search of them. When I see the shrimp boats I get up behind them while they are either dragging their nets or culling their catch. Simply hook a live menhaden on a big circle hook with a steel leader and hang on. I use 50-pound test braid for my main line and a simple steel leader with 9/0 circle hook. Let the shark take the bait and simply start reeling. When the shark gets close to the boat I have gloves on and grab the tail to bring it in the boat safely. Be careful of the bight of the fish as well as the tail. Their skin is rough and can scratch you. Sharks are cartilage fish so they can bend a lot. I cover the shark’s eyes with a towel and use a pair of bolt cutters to cut the hook in half so it can be removed easily. Snap a few pictures and let ‘em go.
Sharks are an important part of the ecosystem and some species are protected here in our waters. The laws governing keeping sharks are complicated and I will not attempt to decipher them. I release all the sharks I catch, but if you want to keep one I suggest studying up on them. Some sharks are good to eat; some are not. Be respectful of sharks and treat them with the respect you would any other wild creature. They are not the scourge of the universe that some make them out to be.
Check out my website for this week’s latest fishing report at www.eastcoastsports.com. And send me some pictures of your catch to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tight Lines and Fair Winds,
Capt. Chris Medlin