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The Gulf seemed
at peace with itself as my cousin Frank Moore and I pulled up to the small
oil platform. The water was as smooth as a mirror and unusually clear for
being only three miles off the Galveston jetties.
- As we placed the rig hook on vertical pipe spanning the height of the
rig, it seemed as if we might be in Florida instead of on the Upper Texas
Coast. But the city of Galveston stood in the horizon to remind us exactly
where we were.
- This tranquil mood began to crumble as Frank poured over a cup of clabbered
beef blood. The water quickly dissolved the red mass, but the alluring
blue tint began to take on an ominous dark shade almost instantly. A minute
later Frank poured over another cup of blood and lowered down a weighted
five gallon bucket full of mashed menhaden as I readied the rod and reels.
- Just as he was about to pour third cup over, a fin popped up 30 yards
to our south. The bucket had already created a chum slick and we had our
first visitor, an extra-large Atlantic sharpnose shark that would soon
prove to not be alone.
- Soon there were dozens of the small sharks swishing through our chum
slick and ready to take whatever we threw at them. I was the first to hook
up. The drag on my Ambassador 6000 screamed like a banshee as the powerful
shark pulled with the strong current. For a fish that weighed no more than
15 pounds, the shark fought like a brute making deep, quick dives and seemingly
refusing to tire.
- Frank too had on a shark, but the battle wouldn't last long. After
fighting the fish a few minutes, he fought a strong tug on his line and
then nothing. When he reeled in to see what had happened, he found the
head of an Atlantic sharpnose shark connected to his hook, but there was
no body behind the gills. A large shark had made a quick meal of the smallish
one. It was probably the work of a large bull shark, which commonly prowl
the area and are famous for preying on small coastal species like Atlantic
- Such is shark fishing. There's nothing more exciting than creating
an encounter with the apex predators of the ocean. Sharks never fail to
put up a strong fight and always deliver in the excitement department.
They're powerful, unpredictable and are extremely abundant in some areas
during summer months, giving anglers an offbeat option for fun fishing
And to add fun to the mix, I like to use light tackle for sharks, particularly
the smaller sharks which inhabit the near-shore Gulf. Atlantic sharpnose,
juvenile blacktip, bonnethead and small spinner sharks are all common around
oil platforms, jetties and even piers when warm waters draw hordes of baitfish
to these areas.
- Tackle-wise going light for sharks doesn't require a vast repertoire
of expensive gear. I've been using two basic set-ups while seeking sharks.
The first is a 7 foot medium-action Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod with an
Ambassador 6000 spooled with 17-pound test. This rig is light enough to
afford a good fight from a small shark, but can also handle a much bigger
one if it takes hold. The setup is finished off with three-ounce slip weight
rigged above a three foot steel leader and a 12/0 Eagle Claw circle hook.
- I release most sharks and have found the circle hook nearly 100 percent
effective in hooking sharks in the side of the mouth, where no long-lasting
- damage is done to the fish.
- For ultra-light action I use the medium action rod and reel spooled
with six to 10 pound test line. I use a light steel leader with the exact
same setup for this except for using a Daichi Catfish Wide hook, which
is a modified smaller wide-gapped circle hook. The 12/0 hook used on the
other setup is just too bulky for the small rig.
- Bait-wise, any bloody cut fish will work. Personally, I prefer mullet
because it's easy to get and cuts easily. Probably the all-time best shark
bait though is cut chunks of jack crevalle or bonito. Both of these fish
are extremely oily and will draw a shark strike quicker than just about
anything else. I once caught more than 30 sharks off the body of one 10
pound jack crevalle.
- To draw sharks in, chumming is almost a necessity. Sharks tend to go
where the easiest catch is and putting out chum is like ringing the dinner
bell for these intense predators.
- There are dozens of ways to chum and probably no wrong way to do it.
The most economical would be to take a five gallon bucket, punch it full
of holes and put weights in the bottom. The bucket is tied to the boat
with enough rope to sink at least 10 feet down and fill it with fish guts,
old shrimp, cut menhaden or any kind of smelly stuff. This will create
a chum slick that will draw in sharks from all around. I like to use this
in conjunction with cups of beef blood poured over the side.
- If you're shark fishing from a pier like many anglers, this bucket
method can prove effective, especially for bonnethead sharks which are
very common around piers. Bonnetheads travel in small schools and can be
drawn in very easily by dropping a chum bucket over the side of the pier.
Other species will also respond.
- If you want to get sharks to come to the surface to hit flies or even
a topwater plug (Hopefully rigged on a steel leader) try taking out a pail
of wet sand or mud and live glass minnows or finger mullet. Take several
of the baitfish and clump them up in the sand and throw them overboard.
The fish will escape at different depths and it will drive sharks crazy.
Once they start surfacing you can skip the sand and just throw over the
live bait to keep them surfaced. This is a modified version of what is
called "power chumming" in Florida.
- After you catch a shark, the next question is "What do I do with
it?" It might surprise you, but shark meat is delicious.
- I once had a big fish fry and served cobia and shark and most of the
guests picked the shark as their favorite. Considering how good cobia tastes.
That's one heck of a testament to shark meat.
- Once you decide to keep a shark, remember that it should be killed
immediately. After the fish is dead, remove the head and tail and allow
it to bleed off the side of the boat. Once the fish is completely bled,
put the fish in an ice chest.
- My favorite way of cooking shark is to let it marinate in a 50/50 mixture
of vinegar for three hours before cooking. Beer is another good marinade
for shark. After marinating, I cut it into 1/2 inch steaks and fry it like
any other fish. It's also very good grilled with lemon pepper or garlic
- My personal policy on retaining sharks depends on the species and the
conditions of fish after landing it. In the past before I started using
circle hooks, if the shark was bleeding profusely from the gills, it went
in the ice chest. Using circle hooks will help avoid this problem though.
- Now I only take home a few small sharks a year to eat and leave the
rest to proliferate in the ocean. The only species I will occasionally
keep are Atlantic sharpnose, bonnethead and blacktip, which are all still
abundant in Gulf waters. I always release this big species to fight another
day. Many of these species have plummeted to dangerously low numbers. They
deserve a fighting chance.
- "Some common near-shore shark species"
- To most people, sharks caught in the nearshore Gulf are either "sand
- sharks" or "baby hammerheads", but there is some real
species diversity in
- these fertile areas. The following is a brief description of some of
- species common to the Gulf Coast.
- Atlantic sharpnose shark-These small sharks
range from 24 inches to 42 inches and are the most common shark species
in local waters. Atlantic sharpnose sharks are often called "sand
sharks" and are commonly mistaken for juvenile blacktip sharks because
of dark pigmentation on their dorsal fins. These sharks have the standard
shark build with a pointed nose. Some individuals are covered with small
- Blacktip shark-Blacktips are a common
large shark species and can be distinguished by the dark black coloration
on the tip of their fins. Blacktips grow to be more than 150 pounds and
have been known to attack divers and swimmers from time to time. As a sportfish
they have few equals as they're famous for jumping like a tarpon and making
long, powerful runs. The average blacktip caught by anglers is around 20
- Bull shark - Bull sharks are distinguished
by their blunt nose and stocky build. Bull sharks are a common visitor
to local beaches and can tolerate high levels of freshwater. Juvenile bull
sharks are common around the beachfront and jetty systems and so are their
much larger relatives. They're considered a man-eater.
- Bonnethead shark - Bonnetheads are a small
species of shark often mistaken for juvenile hammerheads sharks because
of their odd-shaped head. The difference is that a hammerhead has a straight
head, while the bonnethead has a rounded one. Bonnetheads often travel
in schools near the water's surface.
- Lemon shark - These are one of the largest
species of sharks to be found near local beaches. These sharks can weigh
more than 500 pounds. They're usually a yellowish-brown color, although
some individuals appear to be almost gray.