I’ve been Shark fishing from St. Simons Island as far back as I can remember. I can’t seem to cure the disease even today. If you are fishing for the right kind of Sharks, it is one heck of a sport for even the most avid angler. The all mighty Spinner Shark should be your number one target when Shark fishing if you want to test your angling skills and find out if your tackle is up to par.
I won’t be the first to tell you that Tarpon fishing is a great sport, but we have options here on the Georgia coast that will allow an angler to catch large fish nearshore until the Tarpon show up in great numbers.
I have been targeting these fish since childhood. I started this year a bit early as I didn’t want to miss the first shot at a Spinner Shark. I drifted Shrimp Boats the entire month of May in hope of hooking up a fish in the 100-pound class on 50-pound tackle. The bait was already plentiful, and the shrimp boats were dumping large amounts of bi-catch out of the scuppers.
By the second week in May, we started to see Spinners “free jumping” in huge bait pods off of Cumberland Island. I felt like it was time to hit the Shrimp Boats again that day.
We geared up with 40 and 50 pound outfits and headed out to look for Thumpers (large menhaden) for bait and chum. I believe the Shrimp Boats dump plenty of chum, but it can’t hurt to give them a little more. We caught our bait and headed for the Shrimpers working in 25 ft. of water. We proceeded to catch Sand Sharks the rest of the afternoon with no sign of a spinner shark anywhere off St. Simons Island. It was simply too early for them to be off St. Simons Island in great numbers.
Sand Sharks are simply not what I am looking for when it comes to catching a game fish. Shark fishermen love to catch all types of Sharks, but in my book there are two types of Sharks to catch. Black Tip and Spinner. They are brutes for their size and give the angler on the rod a run for the money with their leaping and rolling as they try to get rid of the hook!
Finally, we landed the first 100-pound Spinner of the year on May 19. Not only was it the first one of the year on my boat, I had a client on board who booked a Spinner trip last June with me and caught four Spinners on a ½ day trip, so the pressure was on to catch him another one! I was happy to see him get another shot at a nice fish. We ended up with another Black Tip around 70 pounds, and we jumped off another Spinner over 100 pounds before 11 A.M.
Since then, there has been one hooked or caught on every trip. Some of these fish have been border line State Record size, if not better! Just out of the blue, they showed up in numbers. It’s great to see these fish off the coast after all the pressure from commercial netters pounding this entire area for months on end.
They can’t turn away a huge thumper hooked through the tail on the surface. If the fish are there, they will bite behind the Shrimp Boats. When the Shrimp Boats are scarce, you can still catch these fish if you are willing to go the extra mile and chum them to your boat. I normally will have a five-gallon bucket full of menhaden for cut chum. You have a better shot at these fish if you anchor your boat when you start to chum and cut the menhaden into three pieces and toss them one by one. Never dump the whole bucket over the side.
I will add that it takes serious tackle to land these fish. I like to fish 7 feet of 150 or 200 pound mono leader instead of wire especially when the fish are finicky. (Don’t think these Sharks aren’t finicky sometimes. I’ve had people fishing right beside me with wire leader not catching a thing as we stayed hooked up constantly.) Your Rod’s need to be at least 30-50 class with a “heavy” rating. My preference for a heavy rod is an 8-ft. Ugly Stick 50-80 Rod. This Rod will wear a fish down in a hurry! Your hook should be at least 6/0 with a long shank. Match all this up with a reel that is capable of holding 300 yards of 40 or 50 pound line. (I promise, you will need it if you hook a Spinner over 100 pounds. These fish are fast and furious feeders. I have been spooled many times by Spinners with 40 or 50 pound line.)
Fish a lot of drag, and don’t free spool your reels on these fish when using mono leaders. If you fish a locked drag, you will land 5 times as many Spinners. The hook will normally lodge in the jaw of the fish leaving him nothing to bite on but the shank of the hook instead of your leader whereas free spool gives the fish a chance to swallow the hook and bite on your leader before you set the hook and he WILL bite through it.
This is some of the best fishing you can do for trophy size fish within four miles of the beach. These fish are in the air a lot when you first hook up on them and they always make two or three hard, long runs before an angler can get their head turned toward the boat. That may possibly be the best part about catching Spinners. It’s as close to Tarpon fishing as you can get!