LIVE BAIT FISHING FOR SHARKS

Riggers Notebook


Live Bait for Sharks

by Curt Garfield 

Captain Ted Legg used to fish for sharks the way everybody else around the British Isles did. He used dead bait under a balloon marker, didn't strike until the fish made its second run, and didn't catch many sharks. Today Legg enjoys the reputation of being one of the top shark anglers and charter skippers in Europe. Wolfgang Schmidt of Hamburg, German, set a new 30-pound British and European record with a 281 -pound thresher shark taken on his boat. The difference? In two words, live bait.
Using live baits for sharks is routine procedure in Florida, but northern sharkers, in both the United States and Europe, have always used dead baits, either whole or strips, a concept that Legg found difficult to accept. "The chance of hooking a fish after he's been mouthing that bait, feeling the book most of the time, isn't good," he points out.

Present a Moving Bait

So Legg started looking for a way to 'increase the hook-up rate for his customers. He concluded that a shark, or any predatory fish, is more likely to attack a bait that's moving than one that's motionless. And when the attack comes there will be little hesitation. .Sol I started using live baits," he explained. "They're tethered below a balloon. There is a certain amount of movement there because the bait fish can still swim on the end of the wire leader, but I wondered how I could present the bait to stimulate a fish to come in fast and attack it as if it were a trolling lure."

Legg began experimenting. Instead of letting the shark run after a strike, he would fish in strike drag and wind up any slack the minute the balloon began moving. It didn't take long for the new tactic to start paying dividends. Within a week, a thresher, attracted by a chum slick, attacked Legg's five mackerel on the run. As the fish steamed off, the fine came tight and he was hooked up. That fish was to be the first of many. "After a number of years of being the only person fishing this method, I've caught more thresher sharks than anybody else in English waters," said Legg. "Fishing against the strike drag and coming tight on the fish as soon as it picks up the bait is the reason why."

Rigging Live Mackerel

The way Legg places the hook in the bait is another radical change. "First of all, we can't disguise the hook too heavily in the bait because we've got to get it out and get it stuck in the shark," he said. "We've also got to keep the bait alive. We use Mustad  Seamasters - a round-bend offset hook - normally 10/0s, sometimes 12/0s, depending on the size of the mackerel that are available.

"We take the hook through across the top of the back just ahead of the tail all the way through onto the leader. Then measure the hook midway down the mackerel and thread it up just under the skin so the hook lies horizontally down the flank with the bend away from the fish.

"You've got to push through the same side of the mackerel each time. Come in from the starboard (right) side and lay your hook on the port (left) side so that the point is coming away from the fish. Otherwise, when you strike, your hook is going to dig back into the mackerel."

Legg points out that the less meat you've got on top of the hook, the quicker it's going to come out and penetrate the target and the longer the bait will remain lively. Experience has shown him that the hook should be placed in the middle of the bait for the best chance of a hook-up. He notes that in eight out of ten strikes the shark will be hooked in or around the mouth, where the angler or mate can get it out. Almost all of Legg's sharks are released.

The Fresher the Better

"We like to get a mackerel straight out of the sea using feathers," he points out. "Take the fish straight off the feathers and get it on the hook as quick as you can. The quicker you can do that, the better condition he's in when he's in the water.

"An injured fish has got to give off some different vibrations. You've got an injured fish that can almost swim away and he's struggling like crazy to do that. The shark doesn't fool around. He comes in there and crashes. About every 45 minutes, when the bait tires, bring it in and change it." Legg notes that many of his anglers make the mistake of trying to get their baits as far away from the boat as possible, and some of them take quite a bit of convincing before they realize that the boat attracts more fish than it repels.

In eight out of ten strikes the shark will be hooked in or around the mouth where the angler or mate can see the hook and get it out.

"Wolfgang Schmidt's idea of shark fishing - aside from letting me bait up - was to fish as far away from the boat as he could and still see his balloon. I always feel the object of a shark's attention - the curiosity factor - has got to be the boat. What are you doing? You're producing a chum slick that comes from the boat.  The boat is an attraction in itself because it's an oasis,  it's something in the water.

"Sharks, porbeagle sharks in particular, are bloody curious. They'll come up and rub along the side of the boat. They're just basically nosy and if there's a bit of food attached to it, all well and good. Anyway, I deliberately wound Wolfgang's line in so his balloon was so close he could touch it at the side of the boat. He was soon tuck into the biggest thresher shark I've had so far."

Schmidt's thresher was the first that Legg brought back to the dock, and it wasn't long before his live-baiting secret was out. Now the technique is spreading throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, and more and more North American anglers are also discovering the thrill of fighting a mouth-hooked shark and then tagging and releasing it to fight again ... thanks to live bait.


September 1992 SALTWATER SPORTSMAN

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