Here at Rok Max we are often asked how to get started with shark fishing both by experienced sea anglers yet to try this exciting branch of the sport and by complete beginners looking for hints and tips on getting into the UK’s most accessible big game fishing opportunity.
Beginners Guide to Fishing for Britain's Sharks
There are three species of shark that are commonly targeted by UK sea anglers. They are, in order of numbers caught annually, the blue shark (thousands landed and returned each year) the porbeagle shark (a few hundred landed/returned each year) and the thresher shark (far less than a hundred caught annually). So straight away you can see that the best species to target are blues. Blue sharks are regular and numerous visitors to UK waters between June and November and provide reliable sport for a large and growing band of UK sea anglers. They thrive in the warm waters of the Gulf-Stream off the shores of the South-West England and the Welsh coast. In the old days anglers used massively powerful rods and reels for blue sharks and as a consequence they gained a reputation for being poor fighters. Today’s lightweight, balanced gear gives these fish a chance to show their true fighting ability and anglers the excitement of watching line getting stripped off their reels as a large blue shark heads off into the distance.
Shark Fishing Tackle
Whilst it’s great fun to use light shark tackle you can never predict when an unusually large fish may turn up so it pays not to go too far down the light tackle road especially if you aren’t used to dealing with large fish. It could cost you the fish of a lifetime.
I think 30lb class gear is a good compromise, it’s light enough for you to enjoy catching even a modest blue on, but still has the power to deal with larger fish. That said, dealing successfully with larger fish will depend on the quality of the reel so this is possibly the most important major item of tackle in the set up. You will need a reel with adequate line capacity (350yds+), a smooth drag and ideally 2 speed gears so you can keep up with fish swimming fast towards you and use the low gear for applying pressure on large fish in strong tides.
Line is something that needs consideration – nylon monofilament shark line is a better bet if you are less experienced or you will be fishing with a group of mixed ability anglers on a charter boat. The lack of stretch in braided line makes it more difficult to deal with – it’s also much thinner for given breaking strain. This means you can get a greater length on your reel but you can’t touch it when it’s being put under tension. If you wrap it around your hand it could easily cut you. It also has little abrasion resistance when it’s being pulled hard. A good compromise is to ‘top shot’ your reel. This means partially filling the reel with braid or hollow core braid then topping up the reel with 50 to 150yds of mono so you get the best of both line types.
As everyone knows sharks are very famous for having a mouth full of very sharp teeth. With this in mind I’m sure you will agree there is no place in your terminal tackle for nylon or fluorocarbon monofilament line. The trace needs to be at least 20’ long in total and built in two parts. The hook should be attached via a Flemish loop to a section of 400 or 480 lb multi-strand wire roughly 5’ long. This is section is called the bite trace and is most likely to have contact with the sharks teeth. At the opposite end of the trace you need another Flemish loop. Above this you have a rubbing leader this should be at least 12-15’ long. One end of this is fitted with a snap-swivel the other end a swivel you can tie your reel line or wind-on leader to. The snap swivel will allow you to disconnect the bite trace to help you unhook a fish and because there is no hardware on the end of the bite trace you may find it easier to unhook a shark by pushing the hook right through and pulling the rest of the trace through the hole. Also if your shark has wrapped itself in the trace detaching the bite trace will make everything quicker and easier. The wire rubbing leader is also safe from the sharks abrasive skin, mono is not.
Increasingly anglers are switching over to circle hooks for sharks as a way of avoiding deep hooking. This is a good idea as blue sharks will often gulp down your bait as quickly as possible to prevent another shark taking it off them.
We sell our own very popular Ocean Predator Shark Traces, but we’ve filmed 2 short videos explaining trace construction should you wish to make your own – the first shows how to make a bite trace and the second the rubbing leader with the optional weight.
PART ONE: How to Make a Bite Trace
PART TWO: How to Make a Rubbing Leader
Floats for Shark Fishing
You will need to use a float to suspend your bait at the desired depth. This can be a balloon - we supply a special clip from Fisher King that holds the balloon in place and is spring loaded so you can fix it to the line in any position and remove it easily if you are playing a fish. Please use biodegradable Latex balloons as they can otherwise be dangerous for marine life. We also sell inline shark floats that can slide on the line and need to have a stop fitted to the line to control depth. In strong tides you will find that fitting an in-line weight to the rubbing leader will help keep your bait at the desired depth.
Chum for Shark Fishing
To attract sharks to your baits you will need to release a chum slick into the tide. The best way to do this to mash up fish with fish oil and bran - the oil will create a slick on the surface that will travel away from the boat for a considerable distance.
The bran will absorb the oil and juices from the fish and drift down into the water column carrying the scent trail with it. This mixture will need to be mixed to a thick consistency and placed either in a chum bag or a plastic canister with a number of holes drilled into it.
The bag or canister is the put on a rope and lowered down to the water so wave action dips the bag in and out of the water. You need to keep an eye on the slick making sure that that it continues uninterrupted. When it stops releasing particles and oil into the tide have a new bag ready to go.
Shark Fishing Tactics
You need to find an area that sharks are known to frequent - for blues this will probably be some distance offshore. Before you start your drift you need to work out where the tidal flow will take you and what effect the wind will have. Millpond calm days with no wind are not ideal - you need wind and tide to move you along so you can get a decent chum slick going.
So when you start the drift the first job is to get the slick going - then spend time getting your tackle ready and baits in the water. If you are fishing a number of rods put the rod that will fish furthest from the boat out first the bait on this will also be set the deepest on the basis that the chum will penetrate deeper into the water column as it travels further. Stagger the other rods and set the final one just the length of the rubbing leader and bite trace deep close to the boat. Seabirds will settle in the slick and if they all take off – get ready for action!
In a small boat it would be unwise to bring a shark on board – for one thing it is much more likely to survive unscathed if it stays in the water and obviously a large one is potentially very dangerous. If you get bitten and lose a lot of blood some distance offshore it could be fatal. An angry shark thrashing about on the deck could also do a lot of damage to your boat and if it bit though a fuel line you could find yourself in trouble a long way from shore. My advice would be to do some trips on a charter boat first before targeting sharks from a small boat.
If you have and questions about shark fishing please feel free to contact Allan on 01635 736436.