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Shark Fishing – How to Find or Catch Bait

There are several different ways to get a hold of some decent shark bait on the beach. The worst feeling in the world for a beach shark fisherman is showing up at the beach with all your brand new shark gear and not knowing if you’ll be able to catch shark bait. Here are the 3 best ways to find shark bait for you next sharking trip.

Catching Shark Bait

Using lightweight tackle or your spinning rod discussed in the shark fishing gear section are perfect for fishing for shark bait. You’ll want to rig your line with a double drop leader. Basically it’s a 2 hook rig with a clip for a weight at the very bottom of the rig. This way when your fishing the weight is in the sand and your line is pulled tight, so the hooks are dangling in the water. Now if you get a bite you’ll see it on your pole instead just losing your bait. A good hook size for this rig really depends on what type of bait your using to catch your shark bait. For shrimp, squid, or fishbites you’ll want to use a good 2/0 hook. If you’re using mullet or other live or cut bait consider using a 3/0 or 4/0 hook. Generally speaking you’re going to catch much larger and gamier fish with this type of bait such as blue runners or jacks.

Landed big black tip beach shark fishing
6′ spinner shark landed on the beach

One other method to catching bait and/or shark bait is the cast net. Throwing a cast net really takes a little while to learn to throw, so don’t get frustrated. I tell anyone trying to learn to throw a cast net to stay out of the water. Practice dozens of throws in your backyard in the grass, and then before making your first throw in the water, practice in the sand. Once you can get a 5′ – 10′ range and the net opens up wide you’re ready to start hunting bait. A trained eye can see bait skimming just under the waters surface. A good pair of polarized sunglasses help a lot, but are not mandatory. You’ll see little “V”s on top of the water. You want to try to get in front of them and let them swim into your range. Stay very still and be patient. Live bait is the absolutely best way to catch perfect shark bait. Some also have had great luck blind cast netting in the water. I hope you’re in shape if you employ this method as it’s very tiring.

Begging for Shark Bait

There are loads of forums and fishing sites around where you may be able to find someone kind enough to supply you with extra shark bait. Lots of shark fishers catch loads of bait in a day and will freeze them. Fresh bait is always best but when you’re trying to increase your chances of catching a shark you want to have anything in the water.

Buying Shark Bait

I met a couple of guys that drove from Jacksonville to fish at my Ormond Beach spot. They were using a whole Jack Crevalle for bait. I asked them where in the world they were able to land such great shark bait and the responded with the Jacksonville Fishing Piers. Makes sense. There are people always fishing on those piers so if you can head down the day before and find a lucky fisherman who landed a nice piece of meat there’s no harm in offering him $5 or $10 for his catch. I’ve also been lucky and found whole bonito in a couple bait shops. Calling around to see if they stock this type of bait is best. One last place to try are the fishing docks. Lots of shark charter boats have stock piles of extra bait. If you’re lucky enough, you might just be able to land some fresh shark bait.

Types of Shark Bait

Bonito

bonito
Bonito: Best used chunked or whole with a couple hooks

I’m not totally sure the best place to catch Bonito as I’ve never caught one. I know tons of this fish are caught offshore I’m just not sure if they can be had from the beaches. I have seen these guys in the freezer at bait shops. Consider yourself lucky if you can use the bonito as shark bait.

Jack Crevalle

jack crevalle
Jack Crevalle: Best used chunked or whole

Jacks can be had from the shore. These guys are pound for pound one of the funnest fish to catch. They’ll put up a great fight and then make terrific shark bait. Live mullet or other live bait are great for Jacks.

LadyFish

lady fish
Landfish: Depending on size, use whole or halved

LadyFish are touted as mini-Tarpon and for a good reason. They jump like crazy and put up a great fight. Shrimp, FishBites, artificial lures, and live bait all work great for catching ladyfish.

Blue Runner

Blue Runner: Use whole or halved depending on length and size of shark being targeted

I’ve had great luck on the Atlantic fishing for Blue Runners. Live or cut mullet seem to be their meal of choice. Puts up a pretty good fight.

Whiting

Croaker or Whiting: Almost always used whole

Primarily feasting upon shrimp or sand fleas, the bull whiting are pretty fun to catch. Anything smaller can be tough to determine if you’ve even got a bite especially with the waves. These guys should be your last choice for shark bait. Something is always better than nothing.

Stingrays

I know the guys in Texas have much better luck finding stingrays in the gulf. I’ve fished for 5 years here in Florida and haven’t hooked on of these guys. Up in Hilton Head, SC I have hooked up with some very large stingrays. The intercoastal waters of central Florida are teeming with stingrays. I’ve used them as shark bait but with very little luck. I’ve read many reports of folks in TX catching monster sharks on whole rays.

Rigging Shark Bait

Rigging your shark bait is vital to hooking up with a shark. You can hook them through the eyes and fish just the head or you can hook them through the tail and fish them live. There are actually several different ways to rig your shark bait but I’ve only shown the method I prefer. Here’s a picture of a very nice bluefish rigged up as shark bait. If you notice I’ve got 2 hooks on this rig of stainless steal leader. The bigger the bait the more hooks you need. This bluefish is around 18″ so 2 hooks were needed for good coverage. I feed the hooks through the mouth and out the gill. Place the first hook (closest to the main line) just below the gill. Then place subsequent hooks 1 – 2 inches from each other. If you’re using a piece of cut bait you’ll only need a single hook.

Two hooks rigged on a Blue Runner

The next step to rigging your shark bait is critical! Make sure you bring some wax covered twine or zip ties. This method is used for two reasons. The first is to keep the shark from stealing your bait. As the bait sits in the water the skin will become soft and will tear easily. When a shark picks up the bait there is a good chance he’s going to mouth it for a while before the hooks are in the sweet spot. The second reason to secure the bait in this manner is to ensure the hooks are perpendicular to the bait. Imagine for a second the shark picks up your bait and happens the bite down right on the hook. More than likely the hook will lay flat on the bait and you’ll miss the hook-up. My method for securing the hook to the shark bait is pretty simple. Cut a 20″ piece of twine and lay it out flat. Now place the bait in the middle of the twine with the hooks facing up. Take the two ends wrapping it around the bait and through the eye of the hook. Now flip the bait over and tie a square not. If you did it right the hook should automatically be pulled perpendicular to the shark bait. You shark bait should end up looking like this.

The aftermath of a shark eating the Blue Runner

You may consider fishing for sharks with live bait. Its a little more tricky since you’ll need everything setup before you catch your first piece of bait. You’ll need a single hook leader and you’ll probably want to use a circle hook. The best place to hook a shark for live baiting them is probably aft of the dorsal fit on the top side. This should keep him alive for quite a while and give him an injured look which is sure to attack the big boys. Have a tip or see something I missed? Want to ask a question? Just drop a quick comment below and I get back to you before your next big shark fishing trip.

Deploying Your Shark Bait

You’ve really got 2 choices when it comes to deploying shark bait. You can cast it out or you can kayak it out. I’ve also convinced a couple friends to use their surfboards to deploy shark bait, but this method is not recommended. On the particular day we did deploy our shark bait with a surfboard, we got a hookup before he even made it back to the beach! They never knew shark fishing could be so much fun ;)

Casting Shark Bait

Casting shark bait can be quite difficult since you’ve got to throw a pound or more of shark bait that is connected to a 6′ leader with an 8 oz. leader. What you need to remember is that sharks have an incredible sense of smell and have no problem coming into waste deep water. If you can only cast your shark bait 10-15 yards don’t worry. Walk it out as far as you can, just make sure you are in the gut (between sandbars). Once you get good at casting you should be able to throw a hunk of shark bait 30-40 yards. If you’re casting a Penn Senator 113 or similar bait casting rod you’ve got a whole new challenge. Keeping your reel from ‘bird nesting’ is a must. There is nothing worse than getting a huge spool of line all tangled up and wasting precious time with which you could be catching bait. A lot of times a big tangled mess means cutting the line and starting over. You can’t afford to be cutting 50-100 yards of your spool. My first suggestion would be to tie on a weight and practice on the beach for several minutes. Once you feel comfortable add a little more weight. Remember a 6oz weight and a 20-30oz hunk of meat weighs a lot! You’ll eventually get the hang of it and it will be quite easy to cast. If you have major issues with casting I have another suggestion. Loosen the drag as light as it will go and throw it has hard as you can. With the drag enabled at all times it will not birds nest at all. I’m sure this is not good for your reel, so it’s best to learn to cast properly. One other safety concern to mention when casting shark bait. When your heaving a ton of weight from the end of the pole the line as a tendency to slip in your fingers. You can get a deep cut on your fingers if this happens. Consider using some surgical tubing or a leather glove when casting. There is nothing worse than nursing a deep wound when you’re going to be on the beach all day.

Kayaking Shark Bait

Kayaking your shark bait is the best way to haul out those large baits. Two recommended kayaks are the Tarpon 105 or the Malibu. Both are great for kayaking in the surf. If you get serious about shark fishing and buy a extra large reel you can haul out your baits several hundred yards and go for the big boys. Additionally they are quite fun to play in the waves when the fishing is slow. Once you’re happy with your placement you can walk back to the beach and place your rod in a holder. I recommend a 2-3″ PVC type rod holder about 4-5′ long. This will keep your reel out of the sand and the corrosive salt water. Also having the rod this high will keep the line out of the sand therefore prolonging the life of your main line. Once its in the rod holder be sure to loosen your drag. You want it tight enough so the waves don’t pull it out, and loose enough that a shark won’t realize he just picked up a dinner.

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