Handling Sharks on Boats

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sharks

Sharks like this 120-pound silky should be released while still in the water. (Note - the gaff seen here was used as a de-hooker - a long de-hooker - not to stick the fish).

If you fish in saltwater regularly, sooner or later you’ll encounter sharks. Maybe even on purpose – there’s no denying the thrill of catching one of these wild beasts. And if it’ a mako or a thresher, you might even want to take it home and eat it. (Most other species are poor table far, or just plain inedible). How you handle a shark that comes onboard is, of course, a rather big deal.

sharks

Sharks like this 120-pound silky should be released while still in the water. (Note – the gaff seen here was used as a de-hooker – a long de-hooker – not to stick the fish).

First and foremost – as if we really need to say this – keep your hands well away from the shark’s mouth. As in, several feet away. But this also goes for other items you don’t want destroyed. I’ve seen sharks latch onto coolers and take a chunk out of the top, snap a rod in half, and even chew a boat’s fuel line apart. In fact, if at all possible, don’t bring the shark into the boat. Instead, use a gaff or a long-handled de-hooker to get the hook free while it’s still in the water. If the hook it too firmly lodged in the sharks’ mouth, cut the line as close as possible to the hook. It’ll corrode away quickly, and in the long run, is not only better you but is also better for the shark.

When you do land a shark, particularly a large one, make sure it’s thoroughly tired out before doing so. A great way to eliminate the danger is to rig and use a “shark bucket”. First, tie some heavy line (mooring lines work well) to the handle of a five-gallon bucket. Then hold the bucket at the base, and slide it over the shark’s snout. Grab the rope to pull it back towards the shark’s tail, maintaining tension, then tie the rope off to lock the sharks’ jaws shut.

What about shooting the shark? It’s a method I discourage. Guns don’t belong on boats for reasons I’ve discussed in the September edition of TF & G – mostly because it’s bad for the guns – and shooting a shark doesn’t completely eliminate the danger. Hours after one of these creatures is dead, its nerves can react to stimulation and cause the jaws to start snapping.

Catching sharks is fun, exciting, and in a few cases, great on the grill. So enjoy sharking – but be careful out there.

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