In 1992 when I started writing professionally during my freshman year in college, interest in sharks was minimal among fishermen although I do remember some anglers specifically targeting big hammerhead sharks out of Galveston and Sabine Pass.
We will have more on that later.
Turn on the handful of television fishing program and it was all bass, trout, redfish and billfish. Shark fishing had a cult following of sorts, especially among surf anglers but there was little widespread enthusiasm.
My how that has changed.
The advent of the Internet has given the exciting sport of shark fishing serious popularity with more and more anglers taking it up every year. I see two these driving this phenomenon.
Anglers who are tired of the same old pursuits see Youtube clips and blog postings with massive, hard fighting sharks and take the bait. We are also seeing those who really had little interest in fishing but love sharks getting involved for the same reasons.
As someone who saw “Jaws” and wanted to get in to the water, I can relate to the desire to be close to these awe-inspiring creatures.
In Texas waters, the bull shark is the king of the near shore scene. With the ability to live in completely fresh waters, they are found everywhere from brackish bass country to the deep waters of the Gulf.
Recent television programming has created a renewed interest, especially since they are considered the world’s most statistically dangerous shark. With lengths of up to 10 feet and more testosterone than any known creature they are indeed super intense.
Anglers fishing for tuna in the far reaches of the Texas Gulf Coast are surprised to find large mako sharks prowling the tuna grounds.
These magnificent creatures are known for their acrobatics as they can jump every bit as impressively as marlins and look like a more streamlined version of their close cousin-the great white.
The most common large shark catches on the coast are blacktip and spinner sharks, which can be hard to distinguish and both having similar acrobatic abilities. I have seen huge schools of these fish just out of Sabine Pass tearing into baitfish with great intensity.
For most shark fishermen, these are the common catch.
This year, I have great interest in hammerhead, both the slightly smaller scalloped and the greater hammerhead.
I want to film and photograph some of these big creatures either while free diving or from the safety of a boat after I catch one.
Back in the early 2000s, local fishing guide, Capt. Robert Vail ran into a massive greater hammerhead while fishing the short rigs for king mackerel. He estimated the fish to be anywhere from 12 to 14 feet in length and it was eyeing a pair of king mackerel he and his friend were fighting.
“It would be after one of the kings and then the other would splash and grab its attention and it would swim over there. This fish was absolutely huge and swam right by our boat,” Vail said.
Such sightings are now a rarity and anyone who gets a look at any true hammerhead is fortunate.
One of my fondest outdoor memories involves battling a seven foot long scalloped hammerhead at a rig 50 miles out of Aransas Pass.
My goal was simply to get the fish close to the boat, snap a quick photo and release it to fight another day. This fish would make long, determined runs, then swim toward the boat and then dive down deep and repeat the process. This happened probably four times in the course of 45 minutes and I was getting a bit tired.
Still, the thrill of battling a hammerhead was strong, especially for someone who grew up (well sort of) shark obsessed and always thought hammerheads were super cool.
Finally, I thought, I had the fish beat as it surfaced alongside the boat. However, the shark simply spit out the big hunk of bait and swam off.
The shark was never hooked. It was only holding on to the bait and could have quit at any time as if it had been playing a game with me or getting its daily workout.
Texans have many opportunities to catch and view sharks in Gulf water.
Chester Moore, Jr.