The Deeper Wrecks
I love fishing the deeper wrecks found off of the lower Florida Keys. I spend the vast majority of my time on the water dropping baits into the depths and then hanging on. I look forward to seeing what comes up next. As an ADD afflicted angler, wrecks offer a variety of species and allow for a maddening array of techniques for targeting them.
The deep wrecks have no equal as far as size and variety of available fish go. Big boy sized critters like amberjack make up most of the back breaking encounters on these wrecks. However, there are a lot of other species that are found hanging around that can “put a hurting” on you. Almaco, mutton snapper, several species of grouper, African pompano, blackfin tuna, barracuda and even the occasional wahoo are known to hop on a bait at the wrecks.
The biggest of the big are of course the sharks. Sharks have become so prolific on most of the wrecks that some days it is quite an accomplishment to land anything in one piece. The sharks have gotten used to the activity around the wrecks and respond almost immediately when they sense a fish struggling. It often pays to be first to a wreck where you can land a fish or two in peace before the sharks have a chance to respond.
As a rule, I limit my losses to just a few fish before I toddle off to another spot. I see no benefit in staying and continually rewarding the sharks for their bad behavior. I have seen a great variety of sharks on the wrecks. Bulls and blacktips are staples and are never far away. A definitely incomplete list of other sharks that make appearances are lemons, tigers, hammerheads, brown, Caribbean reef and even the occasional mako. The last year or two have seen an increase in sightings of great white sharks around some of the diving wrecks in Keys waters. While I have never seen one for myself I have had amberjack that would have weighed in at well over one hundred pounds eaten up to the gill plates in one bite. While certainly there are other sharks in the area that could easily accomplish the task, I like to think of the possibility that it was one of these visitors that made an appearance.
If my clients are up for the challenge, it can be great fun to hook up to one of these big boys and do battle - so to speak. A piece of single strand wire and an 8/0 hook is all of the terminal tackle that you need to battle a shark. I recommend #8 wire which translates to about 89# breaking strength. I like to use a piece that is at least as long as the shark that I expect to encounter. The longer wire will help keep the line from being abraded by the sharks’ tail. Coupled with 50 lb. braid, just about any heavy spinning outfit has the capacity to beat a shark.
While barracuda and bonito are Keys favorites in the way of shark bait, just about anything that makes a mouthful can entice them to bite. Grunts, pinfish, blue runner, small almaco jacks and just about anything that the sharks present have given you back half of will work. Just drift back through the area that the sharks have been attacking, and let your bait free line down as you drift. When they pick up the bait you usually can note a variation in the speed that the line is paying out. When this happens just put the brakes on and hold on. When you feel the shark, simply set the hook a few times and let the fun begin.
I highly recommend that you use a fighting belt when battling sharks on any tackle. Whether conventional or spinning gear is used, the fight can be quite prolonged and the protection afforded by a belt will be appreciated.
What to do with a shark once you have bested it is like the proverbial third rail of political correctness. In many parts of the world, sharks are overfished for their valuable fins which are made into delicacies such as shark fin soup. Organizations such as PADI and their Project Aware have extensive Save the Sharks campaigns in the works. Let me assure you that this is not one of the places that sharks are being overharvested. In fact we are suffering from an overabundance of sharks in our area. Besides the wrecks being affected by the sharks, the yellowtail fishing on the deep edge of the reefs is being plagued by sharks that have learned to take advantage of the fishing for an easy meal. State and Federal regulations have already given law to which sharks can and cannot be harvested. For the rest, only you can determine if you want to take a fish.
Either way, extreme care should be taken whenever you have a shark at the boat. If you are going to release the shark you should simply clip the leader as close to the hook as you can safely reach and let the hook corrode out on its own. If you decide to keep your shark; flying gaffs, tail ropes and excessive caution should be taken. In any case, I recommend that you never bring more shark into your boat than you can hold in one hand. In other words keep the big boys on the outside of the boat.
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