Author: Reel Smooth Fishing Team
Safety Tips For Landbased Shark Fishing
So you think you’re ready to start shark fishing. You’ve been waiting for this moment for weeks. You finally got your nice new setup, your rigs are ready, fresh bait has been caught, you’re ready to catch a monster. You get out there, the rod finally goes off, you bring in a nice shark to the shore. The tough guy (or gal) that you are goes to grab the shark by the tail, but, lo and behold, it does a 180 and almost takes your ankles out, followed by you running away like a little girl. Now what? Didn’t think this far did ya?
Shark Fishing Can Be Dangerous Unless You Pay Attention
There is no safe way to shark fish, but there are ways to minimize injuries to yourself and the shark. I am going to speak from experience and the many close calls where I should have lost a finger but got away lucky.
Smaller More Green Sharks Tend To Be More Frisky & Therefore More Dangerous To Handle
Typically, the smaller the shark, the more frisky it is. Smaller lemons and blacktips are very quick and you can get bit very easily if you are not paying attention. Using a rope on the smaller guys is definitely safer, but not necessary if you are quick and attentive to the shark’s movements. The larger sharks are typically more sluggish and less likely to turn around and get you, but it can be hard to pull them up because their tail doesn’t provide great leverage.
Use A Tail Rope & Heavy Leader For Better Handling
This is where a rope is necessary. With a loop pre-tied on one end of the rope, feed the other end through the loop. You have now just created a larger, adjustable loop. It is important that the rope is thick in diameter and soft in texture. This will minimize friction burns on both your hands and the shark. When the shark comes in, it is your job to place this adjustable rope around the shark’s tail and pull tight. You will be at a much safer distance pulling the shark up this way, you will have more leverage, and multiple people can pull on the rope if need be. If you have two people, one should be on the rod, keeping tension, and the other person on the rope. Once the rope is around the shark, the slack should be reeled up, and rod placed in the rod holder (NOT the sand unless you want your reel serviced) with low drag. If you are by yourself, you’re going to need to make some magic happen between holding the rod in one hand and grabbing the shark with the other, unless the fish is light enough to beach them with the rod itself. When in doubt, use a rope.
Safety For The Shark
The shark is on the sand, now what? Do NOT pull the shark too far up the beach. Make sure to leave him somewhat in the wash. Their cartilaginous bodies are not designed to support their full body weight on land, thus leaving their organs subject to damage. This can greatly affect their chances of survival.
Tips To Keep Your Fingers When You Are Removing The Hook
You took my advice and left the shark in the wash. Now it’s time to de-hook the fish. The first method to de-hook a shark is simply with your trusty old pliers. The most important rule when de-hooking a shark is to make sure you have control of the shark and to be aware of its movements at all times. If you have two people, one should sit on the top of the shark, knees on its pectoral fins, and lift the nose of the shark. It is important this person does not put their body weight on the shark but rather on their knees. Putting weight on the shark can harm it because of their frail bodies. The objectives for the person on top of the shark are to prevent the shark from moving violently and to hold its mouth open from a safe position. This person will likely get shark rash (similar to carpet burn), and it will hurt, but it’s better than anyone losing a finger. Another method with larger sharks is to step on the pectorals and lift the nose up. The second person should have STURDY pliers to grab the hook. The trick is to make a twisting motion with the pliers, especially with circle hooks, so the barb and curve can come through. Try to grab as close to the barb as possible to maximize torque. With the bigger sharks with thicker mouths, do not be afraid to really yank that thing out, their skin is very tough. For the smaller guys, it will still take some force, but be careful as you’re not trying to rip their jaw off. If you are alone, you can sit on the shark, lift his nose with one hand, and try to de-hook him with the other, but I’m going to strongly recommend not doing this if you do not know what you are doing.
The second method, and safer method, to de-hook a shark is with a dehooker. Make sure it is long and sturdy. One person may need to quickly lift the nose to access the hook, but it shouldn’t involve the whole process of sitting on the shark. Different dehookers have different techniques, so use the way it tells you when you buy it (or you can make one yourself), and again, don’t be afraid to really pull. This is a much more friendly method if fishing alone.
3) Bolt Cutters
The final, and safest method to de-hook a shark is to have bolt cutters. One person may have to lift the nose as was done with the dehooker, but once there, get the hook at the base of the cutters, press down and you’re done. If you are struggling, place one handle of the bolt cutters on the sand, and push down with both hands on the other handle. Try to get the piece of metal still in the shark’s mouth out if you can with pliers, if not, it should fall out on its own.
Typically, I will try with pliers for a couple seconds, and if I feel its too deep or I am struggling, I go straight to the bolt cutters. I respect the shark’s life more than a couple cents or bucks out of my pocket from the broken hook. You took a beast out of its natural environment, the least you could do is return it without any jewelry. People say hooks (non-stainless) rust out. They’re right, but studies have shown that takes years. Stainless stay in for pretty close to the shark’s lifetime, while non-stainless are known to host bacteria and potential infections.
The Essentials (Gear):
If you are dealing with very sensitive sharks, such as Hammerheads, my suggestion would be to go straight to the bolt cutters. These sharks fight to the death, so after bringing them in, their lactic acid levels are so high their chances of survival are slim. Keeping them out of the water for prolonged periods of time greatly decreases their chances even further, so get the hook out and get the fish back in the water as safely and quickly as possible. If you are targeting 10+ foot sharks, don’t bother hitting the sand without a harness and belt. Without using one, especially on a Hammer, you are greatly decreasing their chance of survival because it will take you much longer to reel in the fish, not to mention a harness can be the difference between a landed fish and you getting spooled.
Now, pull the shark into the water by the tail. If the shark seems slow or is not swimming off, you need to revive it. If you are too scared to walk into the water with a full size shark to make sure it swims off healthy, this isn’t the sport for you. Do not pull the shark backwards in the water, this is how you kill it. Instead, swing the tail back and forth and walk forward with it until it has enough strength to swim off. If the shark is hard to control when walking it you can also grab its dorsal fin to help guide it. If walking the shark isn’t making a difference give it a nice sturdy shove so it glides through the water. This usually will jump start the shark and it will swim off. Don't worry the shark is not out to get you, he is simply trying to get away. DO NOT BE AFRAID.
All in all, the shark should not be out of the water for more than 1 minute and 30 seconds. Some may argue less, some may argue more, but this is my general rule. With the more sensitive species (hammerheads, blacktips, etc.), I try to reduce this time even further. This 1 minute and 30 seconds should include pulling up the fish, dehooking it, tagging and measuring it, ONE picture (if you are quick on the other steps), and its release. Do not have the whole crew pull up for a picture with the shark and take the picture five more times because your girlfriend blinked and doesn’t know how to keep her damn eyes open.
There has been a lot of heat recently on shark fishing due to large shark fishing tournaments, and certain individuals who have left sharks on the beach, or have released sharks that have washed back to shore deceased. This is a few bad fishermen giving all other fishermen a bad name. If you are going to shark fish, have respect for the species you are catching, and respect for other fishermen who enjoy the sport correctly.
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