IN 1992 WHEN I started writing professionally during my freshman year in college, interest in sharks was minimal among fishermen.
Turn on the handful of television fishing programs, 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 seriously popular. More and more anglers are taking it up every year. I see two things 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 who 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 bull sharks 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 who fish 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. They can jump every bit as impressively as marlins and are 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 tell apart. Both have similar acrobatic abilities. I have seen huge schools of these fish just out of Sabine Pass tearing into baitfish with great intensity.
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. It was eyeing a pair of king mackerels he and his friend were fighting.
“It would be after one of the kings,” Vail said. “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.”
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 a long, determined run. Next, it would swim toward the boat and dive down deep. Then, it would 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. I always thought hammerheads were super cool.
Finally, I thought, I had the fish beat as it surfaced alongside the boat. However, the shark simply spat out the big hunk of bait and swam off.
The big one got away, but we were going to release it anyway as most anglers do with sharks along the coast.
We are working on a photo essay of shark catches on the coast for our fishgame.com e-newsletter. If you have any shark photos you would like to share email them to [email protected].
Get ready for a new season of Guy Harvey Expeditions on the Destination America Network. Sunday Mornings at 8 am CT.
—story by CHESTER MOORE