Toothy Critter

by 15

There was a time when the bane of snapper fishing was to have a pesky barracuda gorge itself on every third snapper hooked as you got it close to the boat.  The commercial value of the great barracuda has thinned their numbers significantly in the last couple years.  However, the almighty bull shark has decided to fill the void - and they have stepped up to the plate in a big way. On some of the more popular snapper spots it is all but impossible to land an intact yellowtail or mangrove snapper let alone get a grouper to the boat. I’ve watched these bull sharks  hover about half way to the bottom, right under the outboards and lie in wait as my chum does its job and the snapper start to stack up behind the boat. WCCCC-100000822725243_1073741884The small rods come out and the anglers get to work drifting little baits back for the yellowtails. Normally we see the best snapper of the day on these first couple of free lined baits and if we get  lucky they’ll make it to the boat with no problem. Usually, about the third fish caught or one that decides to take a little drag triggers Mr. Bull shark to get busy. The sharks will get so pumped up after a couple of the fish are eaten that they will move up closer to the surface.  You will know this happened because the snappers will have moved way back into the slick. All of that is counter intuitive.  It’s hard enough to get a hooked fish in the boat when the snapper is hooked close to the boat, but once they slide back fifty feet into the slick you can’t win. There are a few tricks we have found to counter the toothy tax collector. The first and best to start with is to  lock the drag and reel with abandon (reel like hell). The goal is to not let the sharks get too fired up. For the next trick,  once you are hooked up and are reeling with abandon, sweep the rod side to side as you are turning the handle. This will put variance in the angle your snapper is tracking towards you and will make it more difficult for the predators to get ahold of them. WCCCC-100000822725243_1073742153Hopefully these two simple tricks will frustrate these evil critters enough that they will move down the reef to the next boat. Some days they won’t let up so we have to resort to more extreme measures… This is where, as a fishing guide, I get to laugh a little inside when I ask “Who wants to catch a shark?” Most of the time, it’s a young fella that has no idea what he is signing up for. Usually, I will get all the snapper bait and gear ready before we put a shark rig in the water. I do this because I know, that within the first fifteen minutes of the shark battle, all of his buddies will join him as he runs around willy nilly thinking he knows something they don’t about something to eat I suppose. These sharks are smart and are creatures of habit, so getting them to eat a dead bait is tough. Usually it will take a live snapper with a very small piece of wire to draw a strike. Once hooked to one of these toothy monsters, everybody except the angler tied into the shark should get busy catching snappers. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to limit out or at least get enough for dinner. Once the fish box is flush, it’s time to help the fella on the shark rod. Normally a full-sized bull shark will be over 200 pounds and he will go where he wants. It won’t go so far that running out of line becomes a problem, but still, we have to help the angler a little. So I will throw off the anchor ball and give chase. It’s at this point the angler will start to feel like he’s winning because he’s getting line back. There is a huge difference in catching a big shark in shallow water and one south of the reef. These sharks will generally fight deep and dirty requiring the angler to push the gear to the limit.


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