Archive for May, 2011


Weed Control

There are a number of challenges to the shark fisherman. Probably the most frustrating is weed. The perfect day for catching fish can be ruined by a few plants floating in the water. It is incredibly frustrating when you plan a several day trip and have everything worked out and planned for until the first sight of the water and horror of horrors! – the weed. It strikes fear in the heart of the shark fisherman. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but not much. We managed to make it down to the coast a few weeks ago and experienced this very scenario, so I thought I would write a bit about it.

There are numerous types of seaweed that can cause problems for fishing. As with anything it is only a problem when there is too much of it. A little can be dealt with, but when it is coming in and piling up on the beach you have a problem. The biggest problem here along the Texas coast is Sargassum. This particularly vile plant comes in so thick sometimes it may seem there is more weed than water. I understand that the source of our Sargassum here in Texas is actually the aptly named Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic off the Eastern coast of the United States. The ocean currents and then the gulf stream carry it into the Gulf of Mexico where eventually prevailing winds blow it onto the beaches. I am not an expert on the biology of this subject, but I do know that the spring time and early summer are the times of the year that the bulk of the weed comes on shore here in Texas. It causes a fishing nightmare clinging to lines and building up in huge clumps. In no time the current grabs hold of the clumps and pulls the line into shore in a tangled mass of weed and line.

Massive weed

Wasn't gonna happen on this day!

So, what can be done on a weedy day? Usually it requires some creativity and scaling down of expectations. Here are some things I have done when the weed was out of control.

1. Look for a Protected Area – If there are any passes nearby they might be clear of weed. On an out going tide the current will probably be strong enough to keep the pass free of weed. We tried this strategy last summer and managed to land a 6′ bull shark from the pass even in bad conditions. Jetties are another option. Usually jetties are protecting a channel. Many times the weed will not be as bad in the channel as in the surf. Pay attention to the wind and current as well. It might be that the beach on one side of the jetties or the other is protected from the weed to a degree.

2. Fish in the Bay – A bay is the ultimate protected area. Deeper channels in the bay probably aren’t going to harbor monster sharks, but you might get lucky.

3. Pray for a Wind shift – Watch the weather report. Wind is what brings weed to the beach more than the waves. You might have a choppy surf, but if the wind shifts and starts blowing offshore it will take the bulk of the weed with it.

4. Go For It – Sometimes you can make it work. There are a few tricks of the trade. If you angle your lines into the current and the wind is cooperating you can outsmart the weed. If you get it just right the waves will work the weed that catches on your line up to the surface and then the wind will take over blowing the weed all the way up to your rod where you can easily pick it off. This will not work if you have any knots in your line. If you have braided line tied to a mono topshot you will end up with a massive clump of weed gathered at the knot. On a good day you can get this to work. What happens many times is you get a bow in your line with the current and wind and the weed collects in the bow. If you can get a more extreme angle on your line you might be able to lose the bow. If not, you might find yourself wading out to pick the weed off the line periodically. You can make this strategy work on days when there is weed, but it is not super bad. On the days it is really coming in you can try option #5.

5. Lick Your Wounds and Go Home – Some days were not meant to be. As was the day I took the picture above. It is a real disappointment, but sometimes nature does not cooperate.

Weed can mess up you trip, but sometimes you can salvage a bad situation. Scout out some other areas and maybe you can still get in some fishing time and maybe even land some fish!

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Land based shark fishing refers to fishing for sharks from beaches, jetties or piers. In other words, it is fishing for sharks without a boat. The general technique is to deploy baits several hundred yards off the beach (or pier or jetty) using a kayak and then return to the beach (or pier or jetty) and wait for the the big bite. This is the central concept of land based shark fishing. There are innumerable variations of this technique, but they all are a variety of this model. This type of fishing requires special tackle and equipment. I will give a brief overview.

on the beach

Reels must be of a high capacity variety that will hold hundreds of yards of line and be suited for the saltwater environment. Entry level rigs start at about 500 yds. of line and some larger, more expensive rigs will hold over 1000 yds. of line. To increase capacity many use braided lines. Braided lines are stronger and thinner that monofilament and are frequently used to increase line capacity of reels. A braided line can double or triple the capacity of a reel. Lighter rigs will start at 50 lb. test line and go up to 200 lb. test or more.

Tackle must be heavy-duty as well. Obviously, sharks are large and have sharp teeth. That means not just any leader will do. Multi-strand stainless steel leaders are the standard material for leader construction. Some save a few pennies and go with galvanized cable, but it will not last as long in the salt. Some also use single-strand stainless wire (also known as piano wire) to make leaders. It is less expensive, but a bit more of a challenge to work with since it is not as limber as the multi-strand cable. Hooks must be large, and strong as do swivels and connections. Entry level leaders start at about 250 lb. test rating and go up to around 1000 lb. test. A 1000 lb. test rig would be for a truly monster shark. Under the right circumstances a well built 250 lb. rig could be used to land a shark of 8+ feet. The best all around rig would be one in the 500 lb. range. Leader construction is another topic all together, but I will say this: they must be long. When you get that shark to knee deep water and you need to grab that leader to pull him to the beach you don’t want to be “fishing” around underwater to find it. A long leader gives your line protection from the shark’s rough hide and gives you something to grab a hold of to get him onto the beach.

Deploying the bait is what makes land based shark fishing unique. Large baits, large weights and long leaders make casting impossible. Baits must be deployed by other means. This is usually done with a kayak. Some also use jet skis or small inflatables. A large weight is utilized to hold the large bait in place. Since it is difficult deploying baits they are usually left out for hours at a time. The weight must hold it in place in the rough surf.

Kayaking

Heading out

Kayaks come in two varieties: Sit-in and Sit-on-top. A sit-in type can be purchased inexpensively, but is totally useless for shark fishing. A turned over kayak filled with water is at the mercy of the current. A 45 lb. kayak filled with water becomes a 500 lb. kayak tossing in the waves. For kayaking in the surf a sit-on-top variety is essential for success and safety. Sit-on-top varieties are designed to be able to turn over in the surf and then be righted again. They are the only way to go. In this category there are some models that are better suited for use in the surf. Researching the strengths and weaknesses of different models can save money in the long run.

This is a brief synopsis of what land based shark fishing is all about. I will go into more detail in future posts and hopefully share some ideas that will help others catch more fish as well.

When I tell people my favorite pastime is fishing for sharks I just about exclusively get the deer in the headlights look followed by, “You do what?” or something similar. That is later accompanied by the jaw drop as I utter the word, “kayak.” Evidently the words shark and kayak spoken in the same sentence invoke images of crazed maniacs wielding fishing poles as they embark upon a frenzied attack upon that mystery world below the surface. People tend to regain their composure after a few minutes of explaining exactly how the kayak is utilized and how the shark is landed. I still think a number of my friends think I might have a screw loose or two. Actually, they are probably right, but doesn’t everyone to one degree or another?

Bull Sharks

Double bull hook up

The question goes unspoken many times, but it still merits an answer. Why shark fishing, and more specifically, why land based shark fishing? There are a number of reasons and I will cover several here:

1. I have always loved saltwater fishing – My dad is from Rockport, Texas on Aransas Bay in the Texas coastal bend. As we were growing up we would always spend a week in Rockport with the grandparents. Every day we would go fishing. We rarely had access to a boat, so we would almost always go wade fishing. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of fishing with my cousins and uncles in Rockport. Those were the good times!

2. Go big or go home – Eventually those little 24″ speckled trout seem smaller and smaller. Then there are the redfish. The smaller bay reds eventually look smaller compared to the bull reds caught in the surf. After a few of those you start thinking shark. If you are going to target fish, why not large ones? Sharks are the answer.

3. The Excitement – I have recently pondered the relationship between fishing and gambling. I am not a gambler, in fact I have never learned how to play poker. I think I do my gambling at the beach. I live 6 hours from the nearest saltwater. For me to go fishing I have to plan a several day long trip. I have to plan ahead, adjust my schedule, miss work, miss my family, invest time and money. I only get to plan a few trips per year and I spend the in between times preparing and anticipating. This is all for one moment. Anyone who has caught a shark knows the moment I am talking about. The moment you hear that glorious sound, the sound of the silence followed by the screaming clicker as the shark runs! It is a big gamble, but when it pays off it is all worth it. The excitement of that moment, the fight, the release. They are all part of the excitement that beckons us back to the beach.

4. The Danger – As with anything there is some real danger and some perceived danger. I am not much or a risk taker. I would not ride a motorcycle on a public road. That seems like a high risk to me. I would, however, fish for sharks from a kayak. There are some dangers in shark fishing, but I think with caution they are more perceived than real. Obviously you should be wise and wear your life jacket, watch the weather, etc., but with caution I think it is not nearly as dangerous as an outsider might think. For me, the kayaking out in rough weather or at night is much more scary than the sharks. What gets my adrenaline going is kayaking out your bait on a rough day, staring those 6 foot waves in the face as they try to pound you into submission. Kayaking at night is another matter. I have only done this a few times on calmer nights. The feeling of being several hundred yards offshore at night with your only light being that of the moon for me is an interesting mix of emotion. It is exciting, yet incredibly peaceful out on the sea at night. It is an adrenaline rush, yet calming all at the same time.

5. The Exercise – Land based shark fishing at times can be a pretty extreme workout. What other kind of fishing do you start preparing for ahead of time by working out?  Last year shark fishing was my motivation for working out. Here along the Texas coast calm days are a rarity. It is almost always a challenge to kayak a bait out. The wind is almost exclusively blowing directly inshore causing the surf to pound. It doesn’t take very long for the water to wear you out. Being in shape is a necessity when the surf is rough. Otherwise you will only be an observer as your buddy who is in shape manages to get his baits out. Don’t be left on the sideline. Get in shape! (I need to take my own advice at this point)

6. Because it is hard –Decades ago President Kennedy challenged America to go to the moon. It was something that only a few years before was hardly conceivable. His reasoning was that we should do it not because it was easy, but because it was hard. That is probably the biggest reason that shark fishing appeals to me. It is hard. It takes long-term planning and strategy. Mapping out fishing areas, planning for catching bait, making leaders, etc. It is so much more work than any other type of fishing. That is the beauty of it. The more difficult it is, the greater the reward when you finally get to taste success!

These are a few of my thoughts and motivations. I’m sure other shark fishermen have other reasons and motivations, but these are some of mine. There are several other reasons, but these are the main ones. Maybe you could share yours?

Welcome to BigSharkBlog! Here I will share my thoughts on big sharks, how to catch them, my fishing adventures, and information about products we have for sale on our website: www.BigSharkTackle.com. This is my first blogging experience, so the future of this venture is a bit nebulous in my mind. It is like walking into a dark room, eagerly awaiting the lights to come on and reveal the reality that surrounds you. I don’t know what future reality is to come here in the blogosphere, but I’m sure it will be a fun one.

shark fishing

I don’t claim to be a shark fishing guru or anything like that, but I have been saltwater fishing all my life and have been targeting the “toothies” in recent years. Shark fishing is a whole different animal. It is truly the “extreme” version of fishing. I am referring in particular to land based shark fishing. Fishing for sharks from a boat is extreme because sharks are the largest and most dangerous fish in the sea. Great care must be taken! Swap that boat for a kayak and then the adventures really begin! I will have much more to say about this in the future.

I also will be sharing thoughts on our new venture: BigSharkTackle.com. I will post more detailed information about the products we offer and in what situations they are best used. Hopefully through all of this you will be able to glean a few tidbits of information that might help you out on your next fishing trip or maybe, somehow at least I can entertain you or bring a smile to your face.

Thanks for reading!

Jason – aka Sharkinator