Chumming for Sharks
Shark fishing for Makos, Threshers & Blue sharks makes for an exciting day offshore. To do it right is to
be methodical and to be prepared for anything. This means you will need a class of rod and reel capable of
bringing in a 500 pound fish. Shark rigs can be purchased with large 13/0 hooks and 300 pound wire
leaders. Floats or balloons should also be on your shopping list. You will also need a large gaff or flying
gaff along with a 15 or 20 foot length of ½ or ¾ inch dock line to rope the tail of a large shark.
The preferred chum is mackerel chum, which is typically sold in 4 gallon buckets. It's a good idea to bring
at least 2 along for a full day fishing. Sharks like chum, so you may want to chum a little heavier than you
would for blues or tuna. It's a good idea to also bring along a couple flats of frozen whole mackerel for bait
and chunks. Having an 8 pound downrigger weight for the chum is also a good idea, and maybe getting a
quart of pure bunker oil will help sweeten the slick.
When chumming for sharks, look for signs of larger schooling fish in the area. Trolling a feather until you
hook up on a little tunny or skipjack is a great way to find a spot. Once you decide to start fishing attach the
downrigger weight to the chum bag or bucket and slowly drag the chum in a 1 mile circle around where
you intend to drift. This helps the chum thaw and rings the dinner bell loud and clear for your fishing spot.
You will want to begin your drift on the far end of where you dragged, so that you drift back to where you
started dragging. Set the chum bag down about 10 feet deep. The pieces will flow down and the oil will
flow up. This gives a good mix of the water columns around your boat.
It's not a good idea to fish more than 3 lines for sharks. The first thing you will do when you hook one will
be to reel in the other lines. Having too many in the water risks tangling and thus losing your fish. A good
spread of shark rigs would consist of one 9/0 rod & reel with 90 yards of line to the hook baited with a
whole live or dead bluefish or little tunny. Attach a float or balloon to the line at 90 yards, then let it float
out into the slick another 50 yards. The next rig would be another 9/0 reel with a whole mackerel or
bluefish fillet with 60 yards of line out then a float drifted 30 yards off the boat. The last rig is a whole
mackerel or fluted bluefish dropped straight down off the boat 30 yards with float attached and drifted 10
yards off the boat. Place the rods in the rod holders and cut up chunks of mackerel to add to the slick at a
pace of 1 mackerel every 15 minutes. This will attract other species into the slick, which also attracts the
The drag on the poles should be on a free spool with the clicker on. Keep an eye on the floats. When the
floats begin to move, remember the size of the bait on the rigs. Allow a count of ten seconds to elapse as
the reel clicks off, this gives the shark time to swallow the bait. A well hooked shark has a hook in its belly,
so be patient. Lift the rod out of the pole holder while it pays out, then set the drag and set the hook. Makos
and threshers will immediately take to the air, which is an amazing sight, but increases the risk of a lost
fish. Always keep the line tight, Sharks are fast and mighty swimmers and will swim towards the boat at
times, you will have to reel in the line as fast as you can when this happens. It is also very important to a
successful landing to tire the shark out. So do not be in a hurry to bring it along side the boat. Allow for the
shark to make several runs. When the shark runs let the drag out enough for it to stay tight and pay out.
Tight drags during a run is what will cause the air show, so you should prefer deep runs.
When the shark gets close to the boat and the leader is exposed, put on the gloves and have a man on the
leader, the object is to get a rope around the tail and tie it off to the boat, or to get the hook of a flying gaff
into its gut to get it to bleed to death. Never try to bring a live shark on the boat, unless you would like your
boat trashed, or a foot or leg bitten. Sharks die pretty quickly once tied. They need water moving over the
gills so once they are stopped from swimming they drown pretty quickly.
If you plan on eating the shark, it's a good idea to gut it as soon as it dies. Shark guts are 75% liver, and
once it dies the liver backs up and all the poisons and waste in the liver saturates the meat. Remove the
liver and the meat will have a fresh taste, leave it in and it will taste very strong.