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.


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.

Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by DAVE BARHAM

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

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