School of Sharks


Shark week is over, but there is still plenty of talk about catching Jaws.

Redfish professional Sonny Granger and Capt. Phil Rooks of Fish Finder Charters shared the ins and outs of catching sharks in our local waters during Wednesday’s Emerald Coast Saltwater Seminar at North Light Yacht Club Marina in Niceville. “There’s a lot of hype about sharks that is unnecessary,” Granger told the more than 50 gathered for the monthly seminar. “Attacks are because we get up in their kitchen,” he said. “I’m more afraid of getting struck by lightning than bitten by a shark.” “Our sharks are mostly fish eaters,” Rooks said. “They like anything bloody or oily.” Some of the baits the two suggested using include bonito, skipjack, stingrays, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and Jack Crevalle. “A live bluefish is my favorite bait,” Rooks said. “Sharks like live bait,” Granger added. “And they sense distress in a fish.” Grangers said a shark’s senses is like “radar on steroids.” But you have to get the shark to come to you. “They can be selective about the bait,” Granger said. “But anything fresh dead works well.” In addition to live bluefish, Rooks said he likes to cut a Spanish mackerel in half and use that for bait as well as cut Jack Crevalle, which are both oily. If you want to speed up the process of catching a shark, use chum. Anglers that do not want to make their own chum can buy it frozen at Half Hitch. Defrost the chum and mix with menhaden oil, Rooks said. “You want that in the water for the smell,” he said. Rooks suggested throwing a little out every couple of minutes. Then use “good stinky fresh bait,” Rooks said to hook the predator. As for the type of tackle, Rooks suggested a 7 ought hook or a 12 ought for bigger bait. He likes to use 80-pound test wire, about 2-feet long with 30-pound test monofilament on the reel and a 6-foot 80-pound shock leader. “I never use a lead, I just let it float,” Rooks said. He gets a little tension on the line and then sets the clicker on the reel. By using the clicker you tend to get more hook-ups because you don’t jerk at the first sign of the shark, Granger said. “When he gets on a steady move, then you can reel down and hammer it,” Rooks said. If you’re looking to nail a big shark use a 15-ought hook. For the really big ones? “You’ve got to go to deep water with big structure,” Rooks said. However, 4- to 6-foot sharks can be caught in Choctawhatchee Bay. Rooks likes to fish near marker 59 off of Joe’s Bayou on an outgoing tide for shark. He drops the baits out from the boat, then moves away and drops anchor and starts chumming. “Where it drops off is where you need to be,” he said. Once the shark is hooked, it can be tricky getting it in the boat. “They can be aggressive,” Granger said. They suggested using such things as a flying gaff, bang stick, gun or bat to subdue the shark. “Gaffing sounds good until you get it on the deck of the boat,” Rooks said. “Stay out of the way of the teeth. You’ve got about 10 seconds before he goes ballistic.” The shark can also be shot or nailed with a bang stick before bringing it on board. However, both suggested if the angler is not going to eat the shark, not to kill it. Rooks said the smaller blacktip sharks or predator sharks that go after live baits are the best for eating.