Fishing for Sharks

The thing about fishing for sharks is that the more you catch them, the more you respect them for their beauty and grace, as much as their mouthfuls of teeth.  Sure, there is some danger and intrigue involved.  But sharks aren’t nearly the beasts we make them out to be.  In fact, some species are significantly threatened.  It’s the perception that all sharks are man eaters that adds to the problem.  And I would submit that the more you fish for sharks, the more that perception goes away.

Many years ago, I worked in an office down the hall from Peter Benchley in Princeton, New Jersey.  Mr. Benchley’s famous work “Jaws” probably did more to put the scare into people when it came to sharks than anything.  But it is interesting to note that Benchly worked tirelessly on marine conservation issues until he died in 2006.

My good friend Conway Bowman, host of “Fly Fishing the World” is known for chasing mako sharks with flies.  I’ve fished off of San Diego, California many times with Conway, and the thing that intrigues me most about the sharks is how they show up.  You can set a chum slick, and sometimes you’ll see that fin barreling right up the line.  Other times, however, you can be kicking back, having a sandwich or something, when you look over the side of the boat and a 500-pound shark is just there.

Makos are also one of the fastest fish in the ocean, capable of speeds over 50 miles per hour.  They can also jump more than twice their body length above the water surface.  I describe the fight with a mako on a fly rod like tying a line to a 200 pound NFL wide receiver, only the fish swims twice as fast, and when it reaches the end of the football field, it jumps over the crossbar of the goal post.

If you do go fishing for sharks, remember to follow all the regulations.  Catch and release is a good option.  Conway has landed thousands of makos over the past 20 years, and has released them all.

If you do release sharks, realize that they can jump in the boat, and when that happens, it’s like a running chainsaw bouncing around on the deck. Best to use a release tool, and take all photographs with the shark in the water.

But take plenty of shots.  You won’t find many more beautiful creatures in any fishing endeavor.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.