A potential client once asked Capt. Mike Williams to describe hooking, and landing a big shark. Williams, who has spent a lifetime fishing and guiding anglers in the bays and Gulf around Galveston, answered: “It’s like standing on a street corner with a rod and reel and hooking a passing Harley Davidson going 80 miles an hour. I tell my new clients to anticipate the fish fight of their lives, then multiply their expectations by 10, and they will come close to understanding the sheer power of a big shark.
The only way to fully understand what shark fishing is really all about is to do it. Years ago, when I first began fishing with Mike, I predicted shark fishing would one day become the biggest draw for his summer fishing clients. That day has come! During the summer months, Mike’s team of guides are kept busy taking clients out to do battle with Black Tip, Spinner, Bull and occasionally Hammerhead and Tiger shark. These trips have become very popular as family trips.
“We talk a lot of families out shark fishing,” says Williams.” We downsize baits and target smaller shark, mostly Blacktips. for the youngsters but during the warm weather months, there are always plenty of big shark to keep Dad challenged on these trips as well.” The hotter the weather gets, the better the shark fishing. Most of this action takes place within a few miles of the Galveston beach front. A boat ride of three to ten miles out from the Galveston Jetties puts one smack dab in the middle of some of the best shark fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Capt. Mike employs several techniques to attract and catch shark. Floating big pieces of cut bait, or whole gizzard shad under balloons is probably the most common but he also uses down lines with heavy weights when the shark are feeding closer to bottom. Just about any large, natural bait will entice a strike from a passing shark. Big, 16/ought circle hooks are used and reels are spooled with 50-80 pound of monofilament line with 200 pound mono leaders.
“Some shark fishermen prefer wire or cable leaders but I stick with monofilament. The circle hook almost always hooks the shark’s lips and seldom comes in contact with the sets of razor sharp teeth, thus eliminating the need for wire leaders. I like the idea of being able to cut the line if something goes wrong when the shark finally comes boatside. Bull shark are well known for being aggressive. I instruct my clients to stay well clear of their mouths when we pull them up boatside for pictures. We release the majority of sharks we catch. The daily limit is one per person and many of my clients like to take home a blacktip in the 30-60 pound range for grilling. An average trip produces catch and release action on upwards of fifteen or twenty sharks, sometimes twice that many.” Says Williams. Butchered properly, Blacktips are excellent eating, especially when cooked quickly over hot coals and marinated with lemon juice.
Blacktip Shark are the most common species landed. They can easily be identified by the distinctively dark black tip to their fins. Spinner Shark are sometimes confused with the Blacktip but their fins are more gray and their body is not quiet as streamline.
I’ve caught many sharks while fishing with Capt. Mike through the years and highly recommend a shark trip for folks that have never caught a truly big, strong fish. Once Capt. Mike reaches the most productive waters, the baits are put out, usually four or five, some floated near the surface under balloons, some straight down with heavy weights. Rods are placed in holders and fishermen usually don’t have to wait long for the action to begin. A reel will begin singing when a passing shark picks up one of the baits and line quickly strips off, as Capt. Mike so aptly describes, “as though it were hooked to a passing motorcycle”. Once the rod is winched out of it’s holder, it’s a matter of simply holding on and letting the rod and reel’s drag begin the job of slowly tiring the shark. Shark don’t tire easily!
I’ve timed the battles and a 50-80 pound shark will keep the angler busy for about 15-25 minutes, maybe a bit longer. Fourteen minutes might not seem like a great expanse of time; it goes by in a flash when watching TV or most other mundane activities but, when hooked to a hard pulling shark, it’s fifteen or twenty minutes of adrenaline pumping, time suspending sheer excitement. The drill goes something like this: Capt. Mike will instruct you to “hang on and take up slack when you can”.
In the beginning of the fight, there will be no slack given by your shark. You just hold on to the sharply bent rod and watch the shark attempt to strip your reel. You will think he’s going to before he stops his first run. You’ll circle the perimeter of the boat ten or fifteen times as your shark swims in a big circle, fifty or more yards out from the boat. Capt. Mike will relax and watch the show, he instinctively knows when to go into action. The shark’s runs will get shorter and shorter and you will feel him slowly, very slowly, succumbing to the steady pressure you and your rod and reel are applying.
Then, Capt. Mike will stand up and say something like,” one more time around the boat and he will be ready to land.” His prediction, tempered by years of experience, is usually right on target. Unless it’s a smaller Blacktip you plan to eat, your shark will be pulled up beside the boat for a photo session and released. You will set down, smiling, and be secretively relieved the battle is over. You are anxious to become a relaxing spectator when the next battle gets underway!
Make sure and bring along a large ice cooler to keep your fresh shark meat chilled when you go shark fishing. Shark is excellent grilled quickly over red hot coals and seasoned with your favorite dry seasonings and marinated a few hours in lemon juice.
To learn more about shark fishing at Galveston, visit www.galvestonsharkfishing.com
Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton and Friends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org