There’s something about spending time on a surf beach at night, watching the stars, and getting lost in the soundtrack of crashing waves that makes it so darn soul soothing. Well, that’s until you hook into a screamer in the dark anyhow, that slams your rod tip down, shreds braid off your reel, and drags you in all directions before you eventually spot a set of shining eyes and dorsal fin in the shore break. Chasing sharks in the surf sure does provide a rollercoaster-like experience, but it’s this package-deal that ultimately keeps you coming back for more!
Catching sharks in the surf is one of the more reliable ways to hook into a large predator, and as an added bonus many of these sharks around the southern half of the country are sublime seafood, which just adds to the attraction. School sharks (AKA tope), gummy sharks, smaller bronze whalers and others are all top tucker if cared for correctly, otherwise just the thrill of battle makes it worthwhile on its own if you prefer catch and release.
One of the appealing aspects of this fishing is the simplicity of it all, in terms of gear, rigging and getting tight, and hooking into a few grey submarines from the beach needn’t be a complicated affair, with an ironed out, low-key approach usually rewarding anglers.
Gearing up for a sand shark session shouldn’t require more than a couple of rod holders, bucket, berley bag, maybe a gaff if you’re keeping your catch, knife and a torch.
Terminal tackle wise it doesn’t get any more complicated either, with wire traces, sinkers and swivels, glow sticks for rod tips, pliers for hook removal/cutting trace, and some heavy mono’ for a shock leader all the core items you need.
For any sharks with teeth you’ll require a short length of wire trace, and even when chasing gummy sharks using wire will see you land other grey suits that come along which are packing fangs. Grab a beer and pick a windy old day at home and make a bunch of traces, rather than loosing valuable fishing time and trying to whip them up in the dark on location under duress – not fun!
Wire traces should be kept short to enable them to be easily cast, and something like a couple of feet of 100-200lb nylon coated wire is ideal. A Gamakatsu Hyper Swivel on one end – a size 1,2 or 4 -and either a single or double hook arrangement on the other, and you have a basic but highly effective trace setup for light to medium weight sharks.
Don’t fall for the stereotype of using the biggest hook size you can for sharks, with hooks usually selected based on the bait size in use, and the tackle rating being fished, more so than trying to impress your mates. A hook size of say 6/0-8/0 tends to be perfect for the more manageable and easily cast baits used in the surf. The Gamakatsu Octopus pattern is perfect for the job and offers great penetration through the leathery lips and mouths of sharks, while you can step up to a thicker gauge hook like the Big Bait in similar sizes if you prefer. Circle hooks, like the Octopus Circle, also work well if you’re confident fishing them, and offer easy catch and release benefits. Attach hooks via a Flemish Eye in your trace for added security, and if running two hooks keep the second one sliding which is handy when you’re using baits of varying size.
RIGS AND TACKLE
Rigging wise, for the most part you can get away with running rigs for surf sharks, utilising star sinkers or similar in low swell conditions. If you’re struggling to keep baits in position due to sideways rip/current then consider using a fixed rig with a grapnel or wire leg sinker to hold your bait where it lands.
For the smaller to medium sized sharks you don’t need super heavy tackle, with a 10000-20000 sized reel fishing 30-60lb braid fine for the job, with preferably 250m plus of line desirable as they can burn water in their first few runs! A short shock leader of thick-skinned mono’ can be connected to your mainline with an FG knot if you desire a bit of stretch and abrasion resistance from their sandpaper like skin and protection from relentless tail whacks and rolling antics in the shallows.
There’s a common misconception that you need to use extra-large baits to tempt sharks, and this simply isn’t true. Many common beach snacks for sharks include mullet, juvenile salmon and other bite-sized treats that aren’t overly big. Squid, octopus, garfish and any other oily fleshed fish with a reasonably robust flesh that can be kept in good condition will work perfectly either whole, cut or filleted up. Smaller baits mean more positive hook-sets and less missed strikes you’ll find.
Whole and half baits are preferred as they tend to last longer in the surf, especially if crabs are a problem. When rigging these up be sure to utilise any hard sections of the bait like the head which can be a good holding point for hooks, that will enable you to make long, powerful casts and present a bait naturally as you intended it. Likewise, half-hitches around the tail can secure your bait also so it goes the journey.
Good hook exposure, with hooks upright and proud and not buried in baits, is the aim of the game with rigging. Sharks can hit your bait like a pile of bricks and take off flat-out, and if you don’t have good tip exposure you’ll pull hooks out all night long, even on these eating machines. Also space hooks evenly along the bait, so no matter where a shark grabs it, it’ll get a mouthful of Gamakatsu as well.
Keep baits of a sensible size, ensure they present straight and not bunched up on the hooks, and you should be able to take most chances that come your way, and get the grey skins on the sand!