With warm summer nights in Southwest Florida, you can bet on sharks roaming the beaches by dark.
Every year from May to September the forum comes alive with beach shark fishing reports from Naples to Sanibel and with incredible pictures to go along. This is the time of year when sharks migrate and head for warmer waters, typically swimming close to the shore while chasing after baitfish. You may not see them, but they are there swimming just offshore. They are surprisingly easy to catch with the right gear and a lot of patience.
For this trip, I met up with Josh Deschaine (CapnAhab) and two of his buddies Taylor and Tanner Renegar. Josh is the Shark Whisperer in this area and has been shark fishing from the beach for many years. He recently graduated from FGCU and is getting ready to start Graduate School. Josh frequently invites fellow FS forum members to join him on the beach and readily offers up the vast amount of information on gear, tactics and patterns he has amassed to all who ask.
I caught up with Josh on Bonita Beach at Hickory Pass. It was 7 p.m. and there was plenty of sunlight left in the day to begin setting up. Right away I noticed how Josh likes to think outside the box. He was setting his PVC rod holders in the sand with a small fence post driver. A couple of hits using this tool set the PVC pipe deep into the sand very quickly when compared to using a rubber mallet. Then came the bait. Most people would think that sharks eat anything, but they can sometimes be picky, Josh explained. He used a variety of bait to cover the bases. Cut ladyfish, spanish mackerel and whiting was the offering tonight. Once that was placed on the hook, it was time to set out the baits.
Shark baits have to be set out far from the beach. Over time, beach shark anglers have begun using kayaks to make this happen. Josh placed the terminal rig in the kayak and opened the drag on the conventional reel and began paddling offshore. He staggered the distance to cover more area and set the baits from 150-200 yards from the beach. The whole process was very efficient and only took a few minutes to get all the bait set. After checking all of the reels and placing the rods in the holders, it was time to sit down and relax. Now the patience comes into play.
We watched a lightning show off in the distance over the Gulf while we talked fishing. Josh was born and raised in Southwest Florida and has been fishing all of his life here. We talked about the sharks and compared our tactics. I asked him about secret spots that he has for shark fishing and he said there really are no secrets. “Anywhere along the beach close to a pass should produce sharks” he explained. As it turned out he was right, because after waiting about an hour the first clicker went off. It was the rig with cut mackerel for bait. Josh was on it in seconds, and as line peeled off the reel, we went to set the hook. There was nothing there and the line went limp. After looking at the point of break, we determined that the braided line was cut from the sandbar just off the beach. Josh was rigged up and set the bait on that rod within 5 minutes and we were back in business.
Time flies when shark fishing. A nice breeze from the Gulf and a clear, starry sky kept us comfortable as we chatted and relaxed for a couple of hours. Suddenly, the cut ladyfish was picked up, and another run began. This time Taylor set the hook, and there was a shark on the other end. The big fish peeled line from the reel, and Taylor would gain some back. At first, it didn’t seem possible to turn the shark around. But, Taylor worked him and in the end, the heavy tackle proved too much for the shark and he came in to shore. It was a five foot long bull shark. The guys were excited and after taking some photos with it, they carefully released the shark back into the Gulf. What a night!
I try to be respectful to the folks I fish with and ask them if there are any secrets they don’t want me to write about. Josh laughed and said there was nothing he wouldn’t share. In fact, he really went into detail about how he successfully catches sharks.
“My tackle set up is Penn Senator 4/0 and 6/0 reels spooled with 40 and 60 pound mono respectively. I also use a Daiwa Sealine 900H 9/0 reel. This reel is spooled with 180 pound Dacron line. The dacron is old, but powerpro is expensive to buy to replace the dacron. I use a 510 pound barrel swivel (ball bearing swivels are better if you choose to pay more for them) attached to my main line, and on the other end I attach a 10-foot section of 250-pound mono. You can go higher than that if you like. The mono section holds two 4 ounce lead weights, and is attached to another 510-pound barrel swivel. I then start my 90-pound multi-strand, coated, stainless steel cable leader by Malin. A tip I picked up from Jared (seeingred) is to double loop my cable through the swivel and then crimp it with the crimping sleeves. This adds pressure to the cable loop instead of the crimping sleeves and adds more stability to the rig. The other end of the cable leader is rigged to hold a 10/0 to-13/0 Mustad Ultra Point Demon Perfect Circle 3X Strong circle hook. This has proven to work well for me, but I am always open to new tips and rigs. There are many ways to set up your rigs for shark fishing. I use the long 250 pound mono section because I read a tip somewhere that one fisherman thought having too much metal by using a long cable leader could spook sharks. I don’t know if that is true or not, but either way as long as you have something to protect against tail swipes you should be fine. My cable section is only 18 to 24 inches. That is just long enough to protect against the teeth. And I use the circle hooks to ensure a safe, effective hookup. The sharks are swimming so fast after they pick up the baits sometimes that I feel using a circle hook gives me better chances to get good hooksets.”
“I use an assortment of baits: ladyfish, spanish mackerel, jacks, bonita, whiting, stingray and many other baits. The key for me is to have them fresh, the fresher the better. I will buy frozen bait though if I have no other option because they will catch sharks too. Also, live and wounded baits work the best, but sometimes for beach shark fishing that is not an option. The best way to do it is to be fishing light rods while the big rods are out and hope to catch some live ladyfish or mackerel, etc. We generally will paddle the baits out to 150 to-300 yards depending on the water depth. In my experience, when the water is 8 feet deep and beyond there are big sharks moving through. The bait doesn’t necessarily have to be very far out, just in deep enough water.”
If you want to try summertime beach shark fishing, I would recommend shooting Josh a PM on the forum. He really enjoys the hunt and sharing it with others. I think it goes without saying that if you catch a shark, treat it with respect! It’s probably more dangerous out of the water and has to be treated with care.