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Large sharks and small kayaks?

It was suggested I start a thread to address the shark bite my kayak "suffered" this past winter. I'll post then import pics from my phone.

Anyway,even though a fair amount of folks from the campground knew what happened - and some are on FS - I will try not to I.D. the exact location other than to say lower Keys....Every morning at 8 the campground dumps varying amounts of fish carcasses into the channel. The amount varies according to how good fishing was the day before. Sometimes there could be 150lbs of "chum". If it was really windy the day before,there might be none....During the first 2 weeks of my first stay at the campground I would visit the cleaning station at night for a 5gal bucket of bait and head out the next morning immediately after carcasses were dumped. I was fishing from a Field and Stream Talon paddle kayak. It's a pretty darn sturdy little plastic boat but it's tough to fight a large fish and also keep the bow pointed towards it...AND avoid the two bridges and numerous buoys.

I would get 3 or 4 fish on every morning - getting towed around quite a bit - but I lost every big fish I had on. Jumped a few tarpon but the vast majority were sharks

I learned a bunch. I learned where all the weak spots were in my gear...I learned to get the fish guts at night to avoid the smart-alek comments from guys with "real boats" docked near the cleaning station. lol...I learned that occasionally a resident tarpon - usually but not always a juvenile - will occasionally take a filleted grunt (or half'a mullet) drifted thru the channel. I also learned that sharks aren't dumb - at the end of roughly 2 weeks I was getting far fewer hits and most hits I got - when I'd miss it - the bait came back crushed not slashed. Tarpon not sharks....One day I was anchored,the water was clear,I hadn't had any  hits so I was chumming with carcasses and I noticed several  sharks under my kayak. They took carcasses readily when they were "free" but when I dropped one down with a circle hook and wire leader they spooked. Hmmm. I'd probably left a hook and leader in several dozen fish over the previous 2 weeks....So between that and the tide not being optimal iin the mornings I stopped my morning "coffee and shark fishing" routine.

I came back this year a little smarter regarding gear. Got a Hobie with Mirage drive (and outrigger and 2.5hp Suzuki) so staying on bigger fish was now possible. Better rod,reel,line...KNOTS...and on my first day my first hit came before I finished my first cup of coffee...dropped the quick-release anchor...And the fish didn't break off in the first 5 minutes. Or the first 10. I could keep closer,keep it from wrapping around buoy lines...We headed out of the channel,then we headed back in...Thru both bridges. Several times the fish came right under the kayak so I could see it was a heavy bodied shark,a little longer than my outrigger but shorter than my 13' kayak. I'll go with roughly 9' bull shark...

Somewhere past the 30-minute "guesstimate" on time he came in and rammed the kayak. Hard. It startled me but didn't think it was on purpose. 5 minutes later it happened again...OK. "On purpose"....About 5 minutes after that he came in fast and bit the kayak right behind the motor mount. And right behind my elbow. I looked back thinking he was ramming again only to see his open mouth sliding off the kayak. For a few minutes I tried fighting him while keeping the outrigger between the shark and me until I realized how dumb that was -  I was already getting tired. The shark didn't seem to be...and he had bigger teeth. I got the knife out,waited until there was very little line between us,and cut it lose.

The way it fought was in long,fast,powerful runs. I'd gain ground then it'd cut back towards and under the kayak. I'd have to fumble around trying to keep the line/rod from rubbing,tangling or breaking on the hull. Then more long powerful runs...Ramming - and then biting - the kayak just seemed to be an extension of the "close in" part of the fight.

 The fun ended roughly 3/4 mile away from where we'd started....and that was the last time I deliberately fished for bigger sharks from the kayak.

John - you were curious. That's about to the best of my recollection but I fished darn near every day for 2 months. Something may have slipped my memory or I saw things inaccurately but...I'll try to repost the pics.... I'm curious on your input.


  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 184 Deckhand
    First pic is the underside. I’d already shaved away the plastic Curley-ques left from the teeth gouging the hull. Second two pics were topside.
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski Posts: 16,705 AG
    wondering if it would be smarter to paddle out and hook a shark then paddle back to shore to fight it where  you can be safer.   or just paddle out and drop the bait then fish from shore. 
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • krashkrash Posts: 865 Officer
    Tempt fate and you will eventually get caught...
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 184 Deckhand
    edited April 2019 #6
    "wondering if it would be smarter to paddle out and hook a shark then paddle back to shore to fight it where  you can be safer.   or just paddle out and drop the bait then fish from shore. "

    I'd need much heavier gear to fish from a stationary position - especially with all the buoys in the area. Also,there's often a lot of grass flowing thru that channel. Besides,I had my fun....The previous year I had a REALLY big nurse shark on for 3 hours. Hooked it fishing a patch reef and wanted to get close to shore for a picture. I'd fight it to the kayak,"tag" the top of it's head,loosen the drag and paddle towards shore. When I thought there was too much line out I'd tighten the drag and "fight" it back to the kayak. I gave up when I got in the surf zone and waves started breaking over the 'yak. I was exhausted that afternoon and sore the next day....After the bite this year I decided that fishing for critters that outweigh both the kayak and me together - FROM a kayak - is nothing short of self abuse....especially for a 55 year old adolescent like me.

  • Android77Android77 Posts: 499 Deckhand
    Just think you could have been at the mall holding your wives purse while she was shoe shopping.
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 4,195 Captain

    Lake Liner,

    Interesting post. I agree that Sharks are not stupid.  I once had a big Hammerhead (about 12ft) following me around in 200 ft of water for about 20 minutes.  Boats that passed by were alarmingly reporting it to me. It was not the first, so I was relatively unconcerned, even though it was my longest ever follow.

    The next time out, I came prepared with a large dead jack and a heavy rod with a large hook and wire leader.  Sure enough out in 200ft, that same shark showed up again. He swam up alongside and tilted his Hammerhead as he passed me so that we were looking eye to eye.  I excitedly grabbed my heavy gear rig, and tossed the big rigged shark bait out. The Shark showed no interest.  He knew what it was, and was not participating. I believe the shark was following me around, hoping to get an easy meal of any fish that I hooked -- did not happen.  If you ever do see a shark coming towards a fish you are retrieving that is not suffering from barotrauma, click the reel out of gear, and the fish should be able to outswim the shark.

    I have found that a 15ft wind-on heavy monofilament leader with a circle hook works well on sharks.  When I hook a shark, it is an opportunity to practice pulling hard, as it is not a big loss when it gets off. I have yet to target sharks, but incidentally,catch them most often in 100-250ft of water when targeting other fish.  I pull hard on them, and they don’t like to be near the kayak. When I do get them up near the kayak, they are typically on their side, and tired.


    Rather than cut the line, after a photo, I will try to get the shark to take a run, and thumb the spool until they break off.  If played out for too long, Eventually they will stop swimming and bob vertically in the water like the one in the below photo.  One should never bring a shark onboard their kayak, and keep a good distance from larger ones that could potentially cause harm.   In your situation, you were in shallower water, so there was less distance between yourself and the shark for most the fight.  I think if you had put more heat on the shark(pulled harder), he would have been more concerned about being reeled in instead of ramming your yak.  Pulling the shark up on his side would have made it harder for him to bite the yak also. After the first hit, I would have considered firing up the engine and putting a little more distance between the shark and the kayak.  Eventually, the shark would have tired --  making it safe to get within leader distance of the shark for an in the water photo before breaking it off.  Unhooking a large shark alongside a kayak is an unnecessary risk, that should be avoided.

  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 184 Deckhand
    edited April 2019 #10
    The previous pics were at 8.4 miles out over the "240' wreck." The sharks showed up before I dropped my first line - clearly there to harvest my catch 'cuz not a one ever - on several trips - hit my jig. The deepest one in the pic with several sharks showed 40' down on my locator. Water clarity that day amazed me. ..I didn't get a pic - hustled it into my cooler ASAP - but that was the day I caught my first BFT on one of KWKF's plastic shadbody swimbaits,pitching to schools busting the surface.

    It took me a couple wintertime 2-month trips to fully "get" it...when someone would ask "You're shark fishing?"...Ya..."On PURPOSE?!?"

    BTW,John. That's a cool pic of the hammerhead.
  • krashkrash Posts: 865 Officer
    Tempt fate and fate will eventually win...
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • FlatsMatt96FlatsMatt96 Posts: 1,462 Officer
    I have a shimano TLD-25 and what I do is paddle my bait out, drop and paddle back in. I also try to make it a two person excursion because I am lucky and have always been able to cheat my unlucky situations but boy I am not going toe to toe with an apex predator in his environment. Ill stay on land and he gets to use all of his tools and I will use mine. Chances are he will win anyways...
    If youre going to burn a bridge, dont just burn it, use C4 and make a statement. 
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 184 Deckhand
    krash said:
    "Tempt fate and fate will eventually win...

    It does anyway.
    I've been to too many funerals of "cautious" friends who died younger than me...Besides.what I do for a living is far more dangerous than what I do for recreation. I suppose I could spend all my off-hours at home clothed in bubble wrap just to even out the risk....Google it and you'll see "loggers" are listed as the most dangerous job. As a sub-category,what do you think the guys who climb have as risk?

    Still,I think riding a motorcycle in S FL is the most dangerous thing I do...That,and the time I suggested that my wife lose weight.

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