Bored With Shark Fishing – Taking The Big Ones For Granted

 Captains Miss the Action When They Can’t See Angler’s Excitement

Over the years fishing captains in the Florida Keys – or anywhere where  these top predators are targeted — have taken Shark fishing for granted, and probably for all the wrong reasons. As fishing guides, we tend to go after the more dramatic, “show-y” kind of fish such as Marlin, Sailfish, and
Dolphin. We’re an off-shore charter boat, we tell ourselves, we want to see more action in our fishing. We don’t want to get bored! As if shark fishing is boring to an angler visiting Key West!

Key West fishing charters do catch a lot of fish and anglers and captains alike succumb to the “more, more, more, faster, box it and go get another one”   syndrome. Sometimes with the zeal of wanting to move on to another one, we overlook the thrill of the slow give and take progressive battle and forget to savor   the catch which is the very definition of sport fishing!

Shark Fishing is Boring??

One definition of boredom may be the tedium of trolling for hours without a strike, but also can be a prolonged fight with a down and dirty one dimensional fish such as a Shark, Sawfish, or Amberjack. We sometimes don’t realize   that the captain or mate’s s experience of the tedium of keeping the boat   straight, staying ahead of the fish, and standing by the gaff, is probably a far cry from what the angler is feeling. All large fish, Tarpon, Jewfish, and Sharks tend to put on a quick initial show of strength and then settle into the long, slow fight. A true battle between the fish and the angler. The other anglers on the deck, as well as crew can actually get bored while waiting to see who wins and landing a shark can sometimes take HOURS.

Shark on the Hook? Be Back After Lunch

A typical joke a mate will make after hooking one of these monsters is to remark, “I’ll be back after I lunch.” Captain Steve Liberatore, who was my mate for years, used to go inside the cabin and find a magazine or newspaper, bring it out and sit on the gunnel and pretend to read it. In the old days when I owned a light tackle boat, I did actually plan my lunch break for when I had   finally hooked a big fish. Who hasn’t witnessed a pacing mate nervously smoking a cigarette, while clutching a straight gaff during an extended fight?

This is exactly the wrong attitude to have with an angler that has probably spent most of his or her life dreaming of this moment and certainly spending plenty of money to finally get this monster on the line. Just because we aren’t fighting the fish and it seems “boring” to just watch a tedious   battle of slow give and take, we shouldn’t find it uninteresting. The angler’s arms are burning, they’ve broken a good sweat and their hearts are racing with adrenaline. In fact, this is exactly what we want for the angler because this is exactly what the angler wants. Didn’t they say they wanted, “a really big fish”? Relax, enjoy, revel in the pride of doing what we were asked to do!

With the exception of Mako Sharks, a down and dirty fight is what to expect from a true trophy size shark. They are every bit of the embodied muscle and power portrayed on shows such as Shark Week.

Scary? Yes, indeed, they are!

Most sharks are now endangered. Whether from commercial fishery, sport fishing, or environmental changes, there just aren’t as many of these top predators as there used to be. That’s not to say we don’t catch them anymore.  In fact, we still catch a lot of them. We have almost every species of shark here in Key West, Florida. In fact, the largest GREAT WHITE was caught just north of Cuba in a fishing net. Check that fact in your Ocean Almanac!

Sharks are probably one of the most easily targeted species we have that still qualify as trophy fish. Sharks that weigh in at more than one hundred pounds are common. Why don’t we target them more often? I believe that they have become a victim of overhype, if that is a word. We have so many shows and movies about sharks they are now a cliché’ for the public. Many times when I mention shark fishing to an angler I get quotes from movies and rolling eyes as if it is such a common fishing option that they couldn’t consider it. More like a myth than a reality. Sometimes I have to add that we have about  an 80% chance of hooking a shark on an average trip.

I think people just don’t believe we catch them anymore. And while I wouldn’t recommend that a group of six anglers spend four hours shark fishing, that’s mostly because it can take hours to land a large one. We just wouldn’t have the time to make it happen for everyone on the charter.

But for a smaller party, wouldn’t that be a great idea? Isn’t a long, hard fought battle with a big fish what we are usually asked for? Anglers sometimes have to be reminded about the old adage “beware of what you  wish for… you just might get it.”

About the Guest Author:  Captain Craig Eubank is a deep sea charter captain in Key West, Florida. When not fishing aboard the ABSOLUT or telling fishing tales Captain Craig plays guitar and sings in local bands in the Florida Keys.

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