Shark Fishing Tackle Tips
Looe, Cornwall, where British shark fishing was developed, is as well organized for this sport as any of the American big-game fishing centres. Over twenty boats are available for charter daily.
The boats are all around the 11 m (36 ft) mark and have a wide beam of up to 3.6 m (12 ft). The forward portion is decked in with a wheelhouse set about a third of the distance back from the bow. The wheelhouse extends from gunwale to gunwale, allowing ample protection for passengers and crew when driving into heavy seas.
Aft of the wheelhouse is a large area clear of all obstructions except for a fighting chair and the rubby-dubby bins. Deck planking has specially designed handles so that sections can be lifted up in order to get the shark into the compartments below as quickly as possible after it has been brought inboard. Not only does this prevent the fish from lashing around with its tail, thereby causing damage to the boat and possibly the boatman, but it also keeps the decks clean and safe to tread on.
The fighting chair is in effect very much like the normal office chair. It can be swivelled to adjust height and direction as required and is bolted to the deck firmly enough to take the strain of a 454 kg (1,000 lb) fighting fish, plus the strain put upon it by the angler. On the front edge of the chair is fitted a pintle, into which the butt on the rod is dropped. This swivels, allowing the angler to work his rod up and down to ‘pump’ his fish.
Tackle for shark fishing must necessarily be much heavier than for ordinary boat fishing. Until recently, when the American Penn multiplier reels became available for the British market, the Fortuna reel was looked upon as the only reel really capable of coping with these big fish. This was fished under the rod. With the advent of the Penn multipliers, the whole outlook on fishing changed. Instead of fishing the line beneath the rod, the reel was now carried above, allowing a far easier action when pumping a fish. In both cases, however, it is necessary to use a harness, for the weight of rod, reel, line, and fish make it virtually impossible to hold the tackle for long by hand alone.
With the Fortuna, a ring was normally fitted on the rod which the quick-release of the harness was attached. On the multiplier there are two harness lugs, one on each end of t reel, facing upwards towards the angler.
Today the accepted size for either reel is 9/0, capable of taking a minimum of 270 m (300 yds) of line of 46 kg (100 lb or more, or 450 m (500 yds) if using a light line.
The harness, which can be of leather or webbing, is nothing more or less than a waistcoat which is fitted over the shoulder and around the waist, then strapped tight to prevent movement when fighting a fish. Straps lead from the shoulders to a quick release snap and thence to the rod or reel. The quick-release snap is solely a life-saving device in case you should slip an go overboard. Fortunately it has never been required in this country, for the boatmen are experienced and keep a watchful eye on the anglers from the moment they hook their fish. It is however, wise to use this precaution, for if anybody did go over board attached to a fighting fish with the weight of rod and reel dragging him down, he would have little chance. By merely pulling a toggle on this equipment he is immediately freed.
Although most of the modern lines are much the same quality, braided Terylene is the most popular. Some anglers appear to think that the stretching of nylon prevents a good strike being made. However, when over a hundred yards have been stripped off a reel, there is bound to be a certain amount of ‘belly’ in the line, Whether it is of Terylene or nylon the results will be the same.
Since the advent of glass rods, selection of the right weapon has become easier. In fact any solid glass rod with a test cure of 14-16 kg (30 to 351b) suffices.
Hollow glass-fibre rods, although reputed to be extreme strong, have on several occasions snapped near the top at critical moment. Hardy Bros split-cane game rods are, of course ideal for the job, but as with any hand-made rod, the price high.
In buying a rod for shark fishing, it is essential to check that you have one with a correct winch fitting, capable of taking the reel you intend to use. Many rod manufacturers overlook the size of the reel stand on the larger types of big-game reel, so always check to see that the reel fits snugly into the housing find can be screwed down, allowing no movement whatsoever once the reel is securely in position.
The bottom tackle must be extremely strong, for a shark’s skin is rough and will cut through any ordinary lines. Experience has shown that a light rustless wire trace with a breaking strain of around 92 kg (200 lb) is ideal. This should be from 3.6-4.8 m (12 to 16 ft) in length and swivelled at one end and in the centre. Stainless-steel wire is not recommended for traces, plaited or braided wire being much better. Cable like that used for motor-cycle brakes is cheap and excellent for the job. Blue sharks in particular have a habit of rolling in the wire traces when hooked, hence the necessity for this heavy gear at the end of your line.
Swivels must be the best obtainable and capable of working when a heavy fish is on the line. Small ones are useless and invariably snap or draw out under pressure. Shark tackle dealers around the coast and in some of the larger inland towns can recommend the correct type to use, and do in fact supply swivels that are guaranteed by the makers. A guaranteed loading of 46 kg (100 lb) is necessary.
The hook must be of forged steel, size 9/0 to 10/0, and soft-welded to the end of the trace without a. It is therefore necessary to have a brazed eye on the hook through which the trace can be put before welding. Always keep the point of the hook sharpened, for the mouth of a shark is hard and the hook must be driven well into it when striking.
The only other item of equipment is. Although some anglers like to see a brightly coloured float dancing on the water, it is equally effective to use a piece of cork with a slit down one side into which the line is slotted and a sliver of wood insetted to hold it in position at the required depth.
Most boats employed on shark fishing have an adequate set of gaffs capable of dealing with the largest fish likely to be taken. Most are powerful weapons capable of handling fish 184 and 230 kg (400 and 500 lb). The best type ofis that with a detachable head and ring to which a line is attached.