PUTTING THE BITE ON SHARKS
Sharks are good eating and can be fun to catch but they can still give you a nasty nip if you’re not careful
EVERY spring we see an increase in the number of small river whaler or bull sharks in our rivers, creeks and estuaries.
They are good eating, exciting to catch and a popular target for small boat anglers. You won’t need special gear to catch them but a few tips on rigs and baits will improve your catches.
A mistake many anglers make is they rig up ready to capture a monster, but most sharks caught in our estuaries are less than a metre long and weigh only a couple of kilos.
Most general purpose 4-6kg estuary outfits will do the job, however, you do have to use a wire trace. You don’t need large hooks. I prefer a 2/0-4/0 chemically sharpened hook and I generally use a Mustad Big Red.
If you’re using long skinny baits such as a strip fillet, it is a good idea to use two hooks snooded together.
One of the most important items you need is a pair of long nose pliers to get the hook out of the shark’s mouth. A large net is also handy.
Don’t attempt to gaff a small shark because their tough skin and overactive antics make it almost impossible.
The technique I use is to fish with two rods out the back of the boat in rod holders. One is rigged with a No. 4 ball sinker above the wire trace anchoring it on the bottom, the other suspended half a metre under the surface using a float. Either way, you have a good chance of having a bait in front of them.
Many anglers are surprised at how timid a small shark can be. Often the initial bite is not much more than you’d expect from a bream, however, at other times they just pick up the bait and run with it.
Being a scavenger, they will take just about any bait including pilchards, mullet, bony bream and herring, however, small live bait usually produces the best results.
Sharks primarily feed through the night and in the early hours of the morning, although you will catch them through the day, especially in the deeper holes, but they will be in fewer numbers.
Their typical behaviour in a river system is to spend the hotter part of the day in the deepest hole they can find then, in the cool of the evening or before first light, cruise the shallows looking for food.
Wherever you see baitfish schools, the sharks won’t be far away. I prefer the smaller tides of the month during the neap moon periods.
On the big spring tides I find the sharks move further into an estuary system and are often caught a long way up river to the tidal limits.
Safety is paramount when you have a shark on the deck of the boat. They will actively turn and snap at you, so if you intend to keep it for the table, it is a good idea to dispense of it quickly with a sharp blow before you bring it on deck.
Even a dead shark is dangerous, especially to children. Dead or alive, a shark’s teeth are still capable of inflicting a nasty cut, so keep hands and feet well away.
Changes to Queensland’s regulations in the past few years now prohibit you keeping more than one shark and it must be under 1.5m long, but at that size they still make a tasty meal of flake.