We have a variety of sharks in my region that you can catch year-round, but if I was going to pick my favorite month to target them, it would be July. That’s when the pogie (Atlantic Menhaden) schools are thick along the beaches and the shrimp boats are dumping their bycatch daily within a few miles of shore. At the same time, the ocean is flat calm, so you can fish just about every day.
Any time you get a lot of baitfish in one area, you’re going to get sharks feeding from their ranks. You can just pick a pogie school, throw your castnet and dump a bunch of big one-pound pogies into the boat and let them die, then cut them up and chunk them around the same school and catch sharks. Just about every pogie school will have sharks around it this time of the year, but if you want to find concentrations of sharks and catch a bunch and a variety of species, the best bet is to fish around the shrimp boats.
Shrimp boats trawl all night long, then anchor up, clean their nets and dump the bycatch overboard and sleep during the daytime. When they dump the bycatch, the sharks are there to feed on all the juvenile fish that get caught up in their nets. These shrimp boats will be anywhere from a half mile from the beach to three or four miles offshore, so you can fish it easily in a small boat.
You can catch a bunch of pogies from a school near shore, and then run them out to the shrimp boats, cut them into chunks and drop them over the side. We’ll get everything from Atlantic sharpnose sharks to blacktip, lemon and even the occasional hammerhead shark behind those shrimp boats.
Most of our sharks range in size from 30 to 100 pounds or more, with the hammerheads getting to several hundred pounds. I like to fish them on 30-pound braided line with a 24-inch piece of #8 wire attached to six feet of 120-pound monofilament to keep the shark’s skin from cutting the leader. Put it on a 7-foot heavy spinning rod with 8000 size reel—you want to have a lot of line because sharks are fast and powerful and will dump a reel that has less than 300 yards of line on it. I always fish circle hooks, using anywhere from a 6/0 to 8/0 depending on the size of the fish in the area.
We also like to target bonnethead sharks around the flats and bars that are close to the inlets. They look like small hammerheads, but are crustacean eaters. They only get to be about 20 pounds, but they’re fun on light tackle. I target them on 10-pound line, a seven-foot rod and 4000 size reel and 60-pound fluorocarbon leader and 4/0 circle hook.
Bait up with a blue crab and toss it onto the bar up-current of where you’re seeing bonnethead sharks, and their sense of smell will help them locate it. They’re not boat shy, so you can usually watch them eat the bait and then come tight. They’re powerful and will rip out a hundred yards of line or more on the first run.
If you’re going to do a lot of shark fishing, sooner or later you’re going to get one to the boat. Plan ahead and bring along a long-handled dehooking device, so you don’t have to get your hands anywhere near the mouth of the shark, which will keep you from getting bit and make releasing the shark at the side of the boat easy.