Shark Week! Blue Sharks on the Fly
Back in the mid 1990’s I made a video (remember those?) with my friend Jon Perette. The topic was catching blue sharks on a fly. For the better part of a month we made a number of long runs from the South Shore of Massachusetts to Stellwagon Bank to gather the footage. Fishing for blue sharks was a tremendous amount of fun, but as time went on I pursued other species of fish. My memories were recently awakened by my fishing fanatic and writer friend, Angelo Peluso. He’s been putting the hammer on blue sharks big time.
Angelo is based on Long Island, New York which, simply put, means that he’s surrounded by great fishing. In between early season striped bass, mid-season bluefish, and late season bonito and False albacore, Angelo heads offshore to tangle with some monsters. This year’s incredibly warm water temperatures has brought a number of pelagic species in earlier than ever, and he’s been offshore….waiting.
Fishing with heavy standup gear is customary for hard-fighting fish, but Angelo is using an 8 ½ foot 13-15 weight fly rod. After identifying an appropriate thermocline he’ll set a chum slick of ground fish soaked in menhaden oil. After the slick spreads out he’ll start looking for blue sharks coming up for a meal. Sometimes Angelo might wait for an hour while other times he doesn’t wait long at all.
The sharks he’s been catching have been anywhere from 75-150 pounds, which is not necessarily big for an offshore species but tremendous on a fly rod. Once hooked the blue sharks can strip off half a reel’s worth of line and backing and the fight is on! After a half hour fight the sharks are close to the boat, but it’s not over. They’ll make another long run and the fight heads to round two and sometimes to rounds three and four.
“Getting a good hook set is critical to landing these fish,” Peluso noted. “With their tough mouths and rough skin you’ll really have to drive the hook home with a combination of a series of strip strikes and tip strikes. We’re using heavy mono tippets to stay connected with the sharks. And after catching a few of them you won’t need to work out in the gym. We’ve been fishing with Captain Rick Gulia of Perfect Catch Fishing and all sharks are released. I encourage any inshore fly rodder to give shark fishing a try.”
Angelo is using a wide variety of fly patterns, some of which are attractors while others are imitators. “Once the sharks key in on the fly they don’t turn off. The scent coming from the chum lights them up. The offshore water is typically very clear, and I always try to set the hook in the corner of their mouth. The casting motion with a 14-weight isn’t as elegant as it is with a five weight, but the stout rods are necessary to land these incredibly strong sharks.”
For more information on fly patterns check out Angelo’s outstanding book, Saltwater Flies of the Northeast at http://www.angelopeluso.com/.
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Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits. When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters. His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.