April 3, 2018 • Sam Hitzke
7 min read
What could be more of a rush than putting angler and tackle to the test against some of the biggest fish that swim our waters? Usually, people associate big game fishing with large boats and deep water, but, to have a crack at it from the comfort of terra firma only amplifies the challenge and excitement.
Targeting sharks land based is the ultimate way to get connected to fish of serious proportions, without setting foot on a boat. Now, it should be mentioned that similar techniques will work on gummie sharks, but, that’s not what we’re chasing! We want to catch the gnarly big sharks, with teeth, that really pull some string! Ready for the best part? Literally, anyone can get out there and give it a go. All you need is to get set up with the right tackle and go soak a bait!
Sleek and powerful! What’s not to love!
Most common shark species like whalers and bull sharks have a national distribution range, so no matter what part of the country you live in, there are sharks lurking off your nearest coastline. Ideally, angling efforts should be focused around river mouths and in deep sections of beach, known as gutters. These areas are renowned for concentrating bait and other food sources, increasing the likelihood of a shark cruising past.
Break walls that extend out from river mouths offer the perfect spot to set up and access deep water, without having to cast a mile and contend with surf. They’re quite comfortable to fish from, although, it can get a little tricky when it comes to the landing stages. If there’s no safe access down to water level, sharks may need to be pulled along the wall to calmer waters or to adjacent beaches/riverbanks to be landed.
Beach gutters are also great locations to wet a line. Sharks patrolling the beach will come into the deeper holes searching for food. Fishing from the sand can be a little difficult in big swell or windy conditions, but when it comes to landing fish, it’s a lot easier to manage.
Rigged and ready to go! Circle hook, wire and star sinkers are the main ingredients.
Given that you never really know what size shark you will hook next, it pays to have gear that is going to be up to the task. You don’t want to be bringing a spoon to a knife fight! A large shark can take upwards of 200m of line on the first run, so, reel capacity is one of the most important factors to consider.
Braided lines offer superior strength and sensitivity as well as being a finer gauge to mono. The smaller diameter allows you to pack more metres on the spool as you would with mono in the equivalent breaking strain. 50-80lb braid is perfect for the job. Large spinning reels like the Shimano 14000 - 20000 Saragossa are perfectly suited in both the strength and line storage department. Alternatively, anglers can opt for an overhead reel, but in the larger sizes casting can be quite difficult and you may end up having to swim or paddle your bait out. Definitely not a job for the faint hearted!
Rods also need to be up to spec, both for casting large baits and applying maximum pressure to hard running fish. Longer surf style rods offer anglers the ability to keep their line up above the waves while waiting for a fish to pick up the bait. While on the rocks and break walls, they also offer more control around potential snags and obstacles than a shorter boat rod would when fighting a fish. Rods in the 10-12ft range work well with a weight rating of at least 15kg plus.
A late-night bronze whaler drops in for a picture
It’s no secret that sharks have a gnarly set of chompers, so rigs need to be specifically made to handle the toothy onslaught. Nylon coated wire in the 100-150lb class is generally sufficient for most land-based locations, but, may need to be upped if there’s a lot of larger sharks in the area.
Fishing land based requires baits to be cast and as a result, extra-long traces can be quite hard to manage. Traces should be around 60cm in length with an 8/0-10/0 circle hook crimped onto one end and a larger rolling swivel at the other. The circle hooks prevent sharks from swallowing the bait and being hooked deep, which allows the use of a shorter trace, without getting bitten off.
Attached to the swivel, run around 8-10ft of 100lb leader. This provides abrasion resistance from the shark’s sandpaper-like skin. Using a slimline knot like an FG knot will allow the heavy leader to pass through the runners with ease when punching out a big cast.
To weigh the rig down, large star sinkers are definitely the go-to option. They lock into the sand and prevent the bait from getting washed around. The amount of current and sweep will determine how much weight you will need to keep your bait stationary.
The author looking suitably impressed with his 7ft whaler
Sharks are opportunistic feeders, and as such, are susceptible to a wide range of baits. The fleshier and oilier the bait, the better the results. Popular options include mullet fillets, strips of tuna and also fish frames, just to spice it up. Live baits also make a great option but do require a little more effort when it comes to trip preparation, which may or may not suit your situation.
If you’re having trouble with smaller fish picking flesh baits apart, a whole fish head will provide a tough and long lasting alternative. Prior to being cast out, baits can be spiced up with a drizzle of tuna oil to help start a scent trail once the bait is set. Sharks have an incredible sense of smell, so the more scent the better!
Using a bit of body weight to try turn a fast running shark.
The fun part! Once a shark has taken the bait, depending on the size, you may be there for some time. So, to make it a little more comfortable, a ‘rod bucket’ or gimble is a great idea for the rod butt to rest in during the fight. The circle hooks provide a strong hook-up in the corner of the mouth, so don’t be afraid to really turn up the heat and dish out some drag… If your arms can take it!
Sending a little shark home to terrorise some more baitfish
Chasing sharks is very much a team effort. It’s not something you’d want to be doing solo as there is an element of danger involved, especially when it comes to fishing from the rocks or unhooking a shark. Before unhooking, make sure the shark is secured and you have a long sturdy pair of pliers on hand to grip the hook. Alternatively, grab yourself one of the specifically designed shark unhookers, which are made on the end of a long pole, to keep hands clear of the pointy end. If hook removal doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, use a cheap, non-stainless hook and cut the wire as close as possible to the shark’s mouth. The hook will rust out very quickly in the salt environment.
Chasing sharks land based is a great way to have some fun and get connected to some seriously large fish. Keep in mind sharks are an essential part of the ecosystem, so should be treated with respect and returned to the water in good condition if they aren’t being kept. Above all, safety is the number one priority, so keep an eye on each other, not to mention fingers and toes! Good luck out there guys and tight lines!