Oak Bluff, Massachusetts
It’s all over and the results are in, once again the Oak Bluff Monster Shark Tournament lived up to its name. Larry Melo and his team on Waterbury brought in this year’s winning fish—a 399-pound thresher shark. Melo’s crew spent most of the day bailing blue sharks, which aren’t eligible in the tournament. Mid-way through the day, they decided to pick up their baits and move the boat to the tail-end of their chum slick. A few minutes later the big fish was on the line. It took the crew almost two hours to land the shark and another hour to get it in the boat with a block and tackle. Melo said the secret to catching big sharks is doing your homework. “You’ve got to know your environment and your prey,” he says. “There are tons of excellent resources on shark fishing.” Melo’s thresher shark beat the second place thresher—caught by Mark Amorello and crew aboard Sashamy—by 20 only pounds and barely bested Volatility’s third-place fish which weighed in at 365 pounds. Melo caught his fish a few miles southeast of Martha’s Vineyard. “We’re not giving out that information,” Melo said. “We may need to go back there next year.”
Ocean City, Maryland
We caught up with Captain Mark Sampson while he was fishing for sharks off Ocean City. “Inshore shark season is happening,” he reported as his crew soaked chunks of tuna that they had rescued from the marina’s fish-cleaning station the night before. Mark said that after a disappointing spring for trophy sharks offshore, he changed his focus to the inshore sloughs and humps where he found plenty of spinner, bull, hammerhead, and Atlantic sharpnosed sharks up to 100 pounds. “We’re catching lots of sharks and having a great time,” he said. Depending on the conditions, Sampson either drifts or anchors and fishes three baits in the chumslick—one bait 50 yards back and a few feet under a float, the next bait 30 yards from the boat and 30 feet deep, and a third bait just behind the boat and just under the surface. Then, he puts up a kite and dangles two more baits on the surface up wind from the boat. “The kite is so effective,” he says, “I can’t imagine how we ever fished without it.”
Biscayne Bay, Florida**
Bonefishing may be tough, and tarpon fishing may be sketchy, but shark fishing is a crowd pleaser for Captain Ken Collette. “I get guys who call up and are dead-set on tarpon and bones, then I tell them about catching sharks that can weight 300 to 400 pounds on fly and suddenly they forget about the other fish,” he says. Ken has been finding big hammerheads, bulls and blacktips on the flats and channels in northern Biscayne Bay. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in shallow water or deep water, when the sharks smell the chum they come running.” All of the sharks they’ve encountered are over 150 pounds with some fish pushing 400. “We had a hammerhead last February that I know weighed over 800 pounds,” he says, the fish was so big that its dorsal fin came up to Ken’s thigh when the shark swam by his skiff. “We pulled the hook on that fish,” he says, “which is probably a good thing,” Ken is using 10-inch flies in orange, white, pink or yellow. He says that from one day to the next the sharks seem to prefer one color over another. “I haven’t figured that out, yet,” he says, so he keeps trying different colors until he finds what the fish are looking for. “When I tell people about these fish they think I’m from another planet,” he says. “But when they come down here and see it they get hooked.”
Long Beach, Mississippi
Captain Scott Simpson has fallen in love. A long-time speckled trout guide, this year Scott has his heart set on catching big sharks in skinny water. “I used to see the sharks swimming around while we were wading for trout,” he says. “Then I thought, ‘Why don’t I put my clients on them.” The rest is history. Scott says that they’ve been catching huge bullsharks around Cat Island along the bend in the channel. The fish are so thick that Scott isn’t even chumming for them. “We just pull up and throw out the baits and it doesn’t take long,” he says. He is using Penn 320 GT2 reels and 7-foot Powerstick rods to subdue these big fish that can weigh from 50 to over 150 pounds. To make releasing these dangerous fish easier, he bends back the barb on his 8/0 O'Shaughnessy hook and uses an ARC dehooker. He’s also catching bull redfish and jacks mixed in with the sharks. For many of his clients, these sharks are the biggest fish that they have ever caught. “We’re making lots of memories,” he says.
South Padre Island, Texas
When Chris Deaver and his buddies go shark fishing, they leave the boat behind. You see, Deaver and the members of the popular surf fishing message board www.tx-sharkfishing.com target these toothy critters from the surf. “Shark fishing from the surf has been a tradition for a long time,” he says. “And now more anglers are practicing catch and release.” To catch sharks in the surf, Deaver uses a kayak to paddle a big, bloody chunk of fish up to 200 yards off the beach. “Shark fishing in the surf is a team sport,” he says, explaining that one anglers paddles out the bait while another stands on the beach and monitors the rod and a third angler will stand in the back of a truck the radio directions to the kayaker. Deaver also relies on a network of anglers up and down the beach to figure out where and when the fish are biting and what type of bait they prefer. “You can’t do this alone,” he says. When a big shark takes the bait, Deaver grabs the rod and runs up the beach to set the hook. Then the fight begins, and may last for up to an hour. Once the fish is in the shore break, one of the team wades out and grabs its tail then drags it up to the beach. After measuring and unhooking the fish, the angler takes a few photos and drags the shark back into the surf. When asked about wading around in the water with toothy fish that often outweigh the fisherman, Deaver says that the fish are usually disoriented and exhausted after doing battle. “No one has been hurt yet,” he says.
San Diego, California
Captain Conway Bowman is loving life. “This is one of the best years ever for mako sharks,” he told us. Bowman and his guides at Bowman Bluewater set their sights on fly fishing for mako sharks from July to September and this summer the shark hunting has been better than ever. Once he sets out his chum, it doesn’t usually take long for the sharks to come calling. Conway keeps his eyes peeled for sharks cruising the surface and uses heavy 12 wt fly rods and big 9-inch Clousers to subdue these giants. “You have to get them to the boat quick,” he says, “if they get their second wind you’ll never see them again.” Some days are better than others, but he’s been averaging a half dozen sharks from 50 to over 200 pounds each trip. Not only do the sharks keep his clients happy, but they’ve been seeing record numbers of blue whales, too. From the deck of his 24-foot bay boat, monster sharks and giant blue whales look even bigger. “We get up close and personal with nature out here,” he says.