Problems with sharks while tarpon fishing

MulletMaster239MulletMaster239 Southwest FloridaPosts: 59 Greenhorn
I can’t keep them off my lines. I fish from land so there’s only so many options I have as far as spots, and whether in the river, the inlets, or on the beach I keep getting sharked. Seems worse than ever this year since many species have been heavily protected for a while now. I prefer using 130 lb mono leader, but a 6’ blacktip will bite through the 130 lb in no time, and even the small bull sharks in the river have no problem biting through it. I see that large lemon sharks over 9’ can be landed on mono because their teeth seem to be designed more for grabbing than tearing and ripping and aren’t heavily serrated like bulls and blacktips. 

I’ve tried wire so I can save my hooks,
I go through A LOT. While I’ve caught a few tarpon on wire leader, it seems they are far more likely to take a bait on a mono leader in my experience. Would I be better off using a heavier mono like 300-400 lb test, or should I try a lighter wire like #8-#9? Any thoughts on which would have less visibility in the water when they’re being leader shy? Or should I just stick with the 130 lb mono I get better action with and accept the crazy amount of bite offs from the sharks? 100 lb mono worked even better but the bigger fish over 130 lbs have frayed through it in the past since I am on land and can’t pursue after them.

Replies

  • cortrcortr Posts: 120 Deckhand
    It's part of tarpon fishing. I have seen bull sharks on more than one occasion take advantage of a hooked fish.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 3,472 Captain
    You only have two choices regarding sharks when you're live or dead baiting tarpon... The first is to move the moment you hook a shark (after re-rigging....) and if you're on foot that's a tough deal... As far as moving - if you're at one end of a bridge - then work the other end...  Your second option is to actually lighten up your leader so that any shark bites pretty quickly cut through your leader and go on about their business...then re-rig and get back to tarpon fishing. 

     I fish lots of anglers from my skiff using everything from flies to bait along the coastal areas of the Everglades - where there's so many sharks I'll tell anyone not to even consider swimming there... A fresh cut piece of ladyfish should get shark bit within five minutes of placing it around any river mouth with a current (no current... go somewhere else....) so we do our best to fish live baits for tarpon.  All we ever use for a tarpon rig is 80lb leader (a rod's length of 80lb mono then a short trace (less than 18" of 80lb fluoro) ending in an Owner circle hook in size 6/0... Yes, we're working from a skiff and not the shoreline but rarely ever have even a 150lb tarpon wear through that 80.... When we['re fishing sharks that fluoro is replaced with an 18" trace of #6 wire wrapped onto a swivel at one end then a simple Eagle Claw #85 5/0 hook.  Every shark is fully capable of cutting through a mono leader - how quickly depends on the hook and where it is in the shark's mouth.... Every year we'll bring critters up to almost 300lbs up to my small skiff with only an 80lb leader and that light #6 wire...

    The best tip I can give anyone tarpon fishing is not to drop back on the bite - not ever... Leave the reel in gear with standard fighting drag and you'll never hook a fish deeply - not even a shark.  When we're deliberately fishing sharks (in my area we have bulls, lemons, blacktips, and the occasional tiger or hammerhead) we always use j-hooks since a circle hook in a shark's mouth is almost impossible to remove while the fish is in the water (and we never ever drag one into the boat - they're much more easy to handle if you leave them in the water along side the boat...).  With a j-hook it's routine for me to remove that hook before allowing a toothy critter to go on it's way.... Where I am they're are just many, many sharks of every size.  Each year we'll remove hooks from critters up to 11' feet long (lemons) anything bigger is just an all day project - and we always have other things to do....
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • AlwaysLearningMoreAlwaysLearningMore Posts: 103 Deckhand
    Capt. LeMay, those are great insights.  The way I read the shark regulations coming from FWC, won't we all have to change to circle hooks for shark fishing starting in July?
  • tarponhuntertarponhunter Posts: 339 Deckhand
    My only suggestion is to switch up bait to crabs or shrimp if possible where you are fishing
  • tankardtankard Posts: 7,031 Admiral
    They're both trash fish, who cares?
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 3,472 Captain
    I was never asked for input... I’ll abide by the rules whatever they are... if I’m specifically shark fishing.

    Of course that means the shark gets to keep that circle hook...

    We frequently handle sharks with multiple rust marks in each corner of their jaws where previous hooks have rusted out - particularly bull sharks...
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • MulletMaster239MulletMaster239 Southwest FloridaPosts: 59 Greenhorn
    lemaymiami, thanks for writing up that info. Yeah it is tougher to switch spots on foot so I basically just fish areas like bridges, intersecting residential canals, beaches near inlets, and just wait it out. I agree, live bait does help in some places I fish. Off the bridge, live mojarra definitely seems to weed out the sharks. 

    As far as these new shark regulations go, does this mean I’ll have to get the license for shark fishing even though I’m not targeting them and they’re only a bycatch? I’m using 2/0-4/0 size conventional reels it isn’t like I’m setting up with 80ws and 12/0 reels. I’ve been wondering if they’d require me to have the license.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 3,472 Captain
    edited May 28 #9
    You'll have to talk to FWC about that (myfwc.com)... Where I fish - you'll never see any FWC - instead the rules are enforced by Park Rangers so such things are a bit remote for me.... The area I run into each day is roughly 20 miles east to west and 40 miles north to south and most days I have the area pretty much to myself since it's all wilderness and during summer not many folks are willing to face the conditions (mosquitoes, daily thunderstorms, etc. - it's like fishing in the Amazon during summer...).  Winter is the only time we see a bit of boat traffic but that's the slowest time of year for sharks as well....

    Check out my latest fishing report over on the south board to see what we're up to this time of year....https://forums.floridasportsman.com/discussion/269318/everglades-backcountry-report-flamingo-25-may#latest
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • cknowles673cknowles673 MississippiPosts: 34 Greenhorn
    Captain Lemay thanks for all the information! I'm glad to hear y'all use j-hooks. It's never good to leave hooks in sharks or any fish species. We have to protect and respect all species. 
  • dcrdcr Posts: 365 Deckhand
    GREAT post Bob !!   Invaluable info.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 3,472 Captain
    Something simple that I forgot to mention... In places where sharks come after your live baits set out for tarpon (or cutbaits...)  just quit using them... Switch to live crabs under a cork (silver dollar size crabs - either pass crabs or blue claws..). Most shops that stock live shrimp also get live small crabs from their suppliers... Sharks won't bother the crabs and tarpon like them just fine... 

    You might have to get creative to figure out how to get those crabs out to where the tarpon are if you're shorebound but what we used to do years and years ago when fishing king mackeral off of atlantic side piers was to rig a solid rubber ball as a float -on a sliding swivel rig... The weight of a baseball sized soft rubber ball with an added 1oz. lead weight was more than enough to be able to cast the rig a long, long ways off a fishing pier with a surf rod.... You want your crab to set up at least six feet under any float where it's right in the face of big tarpon coming by....

    Hope this helps
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 12,959 AG
    edited June 1 #13
    That's a great idea, Bob.  FWIW, I prefer to use crabs as live bait for tarpon for that reason (among others).

    Bonnethead sharks (and the occasional nurse if you let it get near the bottom) will still eat crabs, but that's about it.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 3,472 Captain
    and when that crab is suspended six to eight feet down and the bottom is 10 to 15 feet the bonnets and nurses will never see that crab...
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 12,959 AG
    edited June 1 #15
    Maybe down your way -- caught more than a few bonnets mid-water in passes over the years during crab flushes in both Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay.

    But I rarely use bobbers.
  • MulletMaster239MulletMaster239 Southwest FloridaPosts: 59 Greenhorn
    Something simple that I forgot to mention... In places where sharks come after your live baits set out for tarpon (or cutbaits...)  just quit using them... Switch to live crabs under a cork (silver dollar size crabs - either pass crabs or blue claws..). Most shops that stock live shrimp also get live small crabs from their suppliers... Sharks won't bother the crabs and tarpon like them just fine... 

    You might have to get creative to figure out how to get those crabs out to where the tarpon are if you're shorebound but what we used to do years and years ago when fishing king mackeral off of atlantic side piers was to rig a solid rubber ball as a float -on a sliding swivel rig... The weight of a baseball sized soft rubber ball with an added 1oz. lead weight was more than enough to be able to cast the rig a long, long ways off a fishing pier with a surf rod.... You want your crab to set up at least six feet under any float where it's right in the face of big tarpon coming by....

    Hope this helps
    Thanks for the advice lemaymiami, appreciated. I just have this thing about buying bait, I never do it. I am cheap plus I enjoy catching my own bait, it’s part of the sport and enjoyment of it for me. As far as using floats, right now I’m fishing primarily off the beach because that’s where the tarpon have been eating best for me of late, and I usually swim my baits out about 100 yards so a float isn’t feasable plus sometimes the boats speed through the area close to shore and would catch my line in the prop. At night I will cast from shore, they come in closer.  Although next time I can catch some crabs when I fish the canals and basins I will give your method a shot, a 30-40 foot cast is all that’s needed so might as well rig a rod with a float and crab while I fish mullet on the others.

    I see a lot of guys in boats scooping up crabs when I fish off the bridges and they don’t seem to have any success. We don’t really get a large amount of crabs flushing through the inlets in my area like up in Boca Grande and other areas. Seems the fellow bridge based fishermen only get black drum while using crab.

    The good news is that in my experience the sharks seem to be a
    little less active in my area during these hotter months and I get more tarpon.  There’s also less boat traffic too. Most people here only fish them in spring, but I’ve got most of mine during summer through mid-November.
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