FISHING WITH BARHAM
Autumn can be a great time to target sharks, with some areas of the coast still producing good numbers into November. Here’s how to tackle up for them
Autumn can be superb for blues.
Hook up to a big blue shark and the initial run can be somewhat daunting. They are extremely powerful, and I’ve had blues take well over 100 yards of line from me on their first run. Every shark is different, too. Some will run away from you, then run straight back at you. Some will swim a short distance, then dive deep, while others might just arc round while staying on the surface. That’s half the fun with shark fishing – you never know quite what to expect once you get hooked up.
Many specialist charter boats have all the gear on board for shark fishing. Most skippers like to fish a four- or five-rod spread using 50lb-class gear, just in case they bump into a big porbeagle or thresher shark, but you can quite happily fish for blues with 30lb-class tackle, or even a heavy spinning rod set-up.
I like to use a heavy spinning rod and a fixedspool reel loaded with 50lb braid whenever I can. The thrill of the fight with a big blue is electric on this set-up.
On the end of the 50lb reel line, a rubbing leader made with 10ft of 400lb wire is tied on, with a 2oz oval bullet weight attached. Then add a trace consistingt of 5ft of 400lb wire with a size 10/0 hook.
The reason for all this wire is simply that blue sharks have a tendency to spin up on the trace once hooked – especially if they dive deep. Using wire instead of mono as a rubbing leader makes it easier to untangle, and it also means you don’t have to keep changing the rubbing leader section after just a couple of sharks.
The aim of the game is to drift along with four or five baits in the water, set at different depths and varying distances away from the boat.
Usually, the furthest bait from the boat is drifted out around 60 metres using a float, and is set at around 10 metres deep. Then the second rod is set 50 metres from the boat at a depth of nine metres, and so on, until the last rod is set just 10 metres from the boat at five metres deep.
RUBBY-DUBBY AND BAIT
With all the rods set, the next step is to sort out the rubby-dubby – a mixture of minced mackerel, pilchard oil and bran. This is all stuffed into an onion sack or drilled bucket and suspended over the side of the boat on a rope.
The trick is to have the sack so that it is only just sitting in the water. The action of the boat rocking helps move the bag up and down, in turn releasing the oily slick into the water.
It’s this ‘slick’ that attracts the sharks to your baits, and because there is nothing in the slick for them to eat, as such, they home in on your mackerel baits quite quickly.
You can use fresh fish, such as pollack and mackerel, to make rubby-dubby. Some skippers keep all the cod heads and guts from the winter’s fishing in the freezer, then mash all that up with some bran and fish oil.
One of the UK’s top shark anglers, Graeme Pullen, let me into a little secret many moons
ago. He had a deal with his local trout fishery, and they keep all the heads and guts for him from the trout that people caught. Because the trout is such an oily fish, it makes excellent rubby-dubby.
Either way it’s a good idea to mince up your rubby-dubby and mix it at home, then scoop it into old ice cream tubs and freeze it down.
This saves a lot of grief and mess on the boat, and the frozen blocks last far longer in a sack over the side than fresh dubby.
The standard bait for blue shark fishing is a mackerel flapper – basically, a mackerel with the backbone removed. However, large English
squid baits also score well, as does any oily fish such as herring, trout and even Bluey.
You can fish with livebaits for blue sharks, but the preferred baits are usually dead, either fresh or frozen.
The key thing to remember when playing a blue shark is to keep the drag set nice and tight, but not so tight that the shark can’t take any line. Most of all, have fun! Enjoy the fight and take your time. When the shark wants to take line, let it, and when it feels like you’re winning, get some line back on to the reel.
Once your shark is near the boat, it’s best to let the skipper grab the leader and deal with it. Most are unhooked alongside, but there are quite a few specialist boats that have been designed with a door down one side at water level, so the shark can be easily slid on to the deck for measuring and tagging, then slid back into the water with minimal stress.
This 135lb blue shark was caught on a heavy spinning rod and fixed-spool reel set-up... awesome sport Below: There are a few custom shark rig builders in the UK that make rigs with circle hooksBottom: The standard trace is a size 10/0 hook crimped to multi-strand wire
Catching blues on stepped-up lure rods and fixed-spool reels is great fun
Fish oils added to minced mackerel and bran makes great rubby-dubby
Mackerel flappers are the standard UK blue shark bait
When sharks start to get bigger than this, it becomes a two-man job to hold them for the camera
The standard set-up is a 50lb-class rod and reel loaded with 50lb braid or mono