Surf Fishing for Sharks: Tips, Rigs & Techniques

Catching small fish is certainly fun, but few things are as exciting as hooking really big fish—especially when fishing from the shore. Sharks are the biggest fish swimming around most beaches, so they’re obvious targets for anglers who want to hook a few monsters. To help you get in on the action, here’s a quick guide to surf fishing for sharks. Learn the best rigs and techniques to get the job done.

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Equipment

You can use the same kinds of surf fishing equipment and tackle to pursue sharks that you would for smaller quarry. You just need to scale everything up a bit. Here’s what you need to know:

Rod & Reel

An 8- to 10-foot-long surf rod is usually ideal for catching sharks from shore. A rod with a medium to heavy power rating will usually work best, as a stiff rod will make it easier to battle and land these giant fish.  

A spinning reel is generally the preferred option for shore fishers, but you can use a casting reel if you prefer. Just be sure to choose one that will hold at least 300 yards of line to accommodate the long runs hooked sharks often make. It’s also important to select a reel that can impart at least 25 pounds of drag on the line.

Line & Leaders

Use 65-pound-test braided line for your main line when surf fishing for sharks. Braided line stretches relatively little, which will enable you to achieve a solid hookset, and it will also withstand abrasion better than monofilament lines will.

However, you can’t simply tie your hook on to the end of your main line. Instead, you’ll want to tie on a 1- to 3-foot-long length of 300-pound-test monofilament. This will serve as a shock leader and help provide your rig with some much-needed elasticity. You’ll then need to tie on about 6 feet of steel leader, to prevent the shark from biting through the line.  

Sinkers & Hooks

You’ll need a sinker heavy enough to keep your bait in place. Something in the 4- to 8-ounce range is usually a good starting point, but you may need heavier weights to fish in strong currents common when surf fishing. Thread the sinker onto the monofilament portion of your rig with a slide so it can move freely.

Circle hooks are the best option for catching sharks. That’s because they tend to catch the shark’s lip, which allows for easy hook removal. They also cause much less harm to the sharks you catch, which will improve survival rates for those you release. Pick a size that matches the baitfish you are using. Hooks in the 6/0 to 10/0 range usually work well.

Rod Spikes & Hook Removers

Surf fishing for sharks requires patience, so be sure to bring a sturdy rod holder to keep your rig secure while you wait. Don’t skimp on quality here. There’s nothing worse than watching a shark swim off with your new rod.

You can use pliers to remove hooks from small sharks, but you’ll need to use a hook remover to free big ones. Hook removers make the task easier, and they can help keep your fingers out of the danger zone too. 

Shark Fishing Bait

To catch big fish, you need big bait. The shrimp or pieces of cut squid many use to catch flounder and pompano from the beach won’t attract the attention of sharks—at least not big ones. Instead, you’ll usually want to use whole fish or thick strips of cut bait. The ideal size varies based on the size of the resident sharks, but most anglers find 8- to 12-inch-long baitfish work well.   

Just about any baitfish will work, although fresh bait is always preferable to frozen. Bluefish, whole squid and menhaden are a couple of excellent options. You can also catch your own bait with a net or light tackle. This allows you to use the same species that the sharks are currently hunting.

Location

Sharks often come much closer to shore than many people would like to think. Consequently, you rarely need to cast your bait out 250 yards. Instead, try to cast your bait just beyond the cresting waves, where many sharks actively feed.

Try to focus your efforts on places where the current or depth suddenly changes. Beaches near estuaries are often some of the most productive locations. You can also have success fishing for sharks close to piers and bridges.

General Shark Fishing Tips & Tricks

Now that you know what you’ll need to catch sharks and the types of places to focus your efforts, you’re almost ready to head down to the beach. But before you go, review the following shark fishing tips to improve your chances.

  • You’ll have more success in warm waters. Sharks remain active all year long, but they feed most aggressively when the water is warm. Anglers fishing in cool water will need to remain very patient and pay special attention to bait selection to have success.
  • Patience is key. Don’t try to rush a hooked shark to shore. It takes time to tire and land a big shark, so be patient. In many cases, you’ll find it necessary to battle the shark for an hour or more.
  • Dawn and dusk are often the most productive times to fish for sharks. However, you can certainly catch sharks at any hour of the day or night. Just remember that landing big sharks in the dark is tricky at best, so be sure to have a headlamp at the ready.
  • The tides will affect shark populations in different ways. Be sure to talk to the locals and find out when they have the most success. You’ll almost always find it easier to surf fish during the relative calm of slack tides. Your bait will stay in place better during these times, and you’ll find it easier to land any sharks you hook too.
  • Catch and release. Although some shark fisheries can tolerate a limited harvest, it’s usually appropriate to release all sharks you catch. Spin the fish around so that the crashing waves help to keep water pumping through its mouth, and try to free them within two minutes.
  • Always fish for sharks with a partner. You may be able to land, de-hook and release a 3-foot blacktip on your own, but if you manage to hook a 7-foot tiger shark, you’ll be glad you have help.

Final Thoughts

Surf fishing for sharks is exciting. Just be sure to equip yourself properly and experiment with different locations along the beach until you find a productive spot. With a little bit of luck and patience, you should have a big one hooked in no time. We’ll see you down at the shore!

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