Despite the weather follies this season, we finally got offshore over the 4th of July weekend for some shark fishing and tagging. We elected to run South East from Sandy Hook NJ down the throat of the Mud Hole. For the first 25 miles the water was dirty green, then started to clear up closer to 30 miles. We found some structure in the clearer water and hung the chum bucket to begin our slick. Along on the trip was Geoff Taylor and Christian Burns, veteran taggers of large pelagic fish. An hour into drifting a nice six foot hammerhead came cruising through the slick about six feet from the boat. He didn’t take one of our fresh bluefish fillet offerings and with one pass of the boat he was gone. Shortly thereafter our short balloon begins to pop, and breaking the silence, a small mako shark jumps out of the water, 30 feet from the boat. We grabbed the rod and after two more acrobatic jumps we made quick work of him on the Shimano TLDs. We tagged him with a Cooperative Shark Tagging Program (CSTP) conventional shark tag #358440 and released him back into the deep. The program is a collaborative effort between recreational anglers, the commercial fishing industry, and National Marine Fisheries to study the life history of Atlantic Sharks. I was happy to get offshore shark fishing just in time for my favorite program show on Discovery > SHARK WEEK.
If another angler catches this mako in the future, hopefully they will cut the tag off and report it back to the US Government agency that tracks the tags. The data will reveal migration routes as well as changes in size. As we were setting the baits back out we notice a boat slowly coming closer to ours. With the binoculars we could plainly see they were hooked into something large as an angler was pinned to the back corner of the boat pulling on heavy gear with the stout rod strongly bent to the water. This boat stayed a few hundred yards around us for the next three hours fighting what was certainly a sea beast of a shark. We were guessing a huge thresher or tiger shark. Nothing under 300 pounds would tie up three anglers like that for so long, and given what we could see through the binoculars, they looked experienced, so likely this shark was much larger than 300 lbs. Back on our boat, I experimented with a new way to rig bluefish fillets for bait, with the hook sewn into the skin of the fillet. This bait technique took longer to rig, however the presentation in the water was far superior to just hooking the fillet in an out of the skin as the hook stays hidden in the fillet. After the day was over, every shark we caught came on this kind of rigged bait. After we tagged our first mako, and re-set the baits, I took the carcass of the first bluefish we filleted, and hung it alongside the boat on a rope. The idea was to augment our chum slick with some fresh bluefish tidbits. 30 minutes later Geoff Taylor breaks the air with a shout that a shark is eating our bluefish. Sure enough an estimated 150 pound blue shark was at the very side of the boat attacking and eating the bluefish carcass hanging on the rope. We all peered over the side of the boat to see the carnage as the large blue shark twisted the carcass with a body roll and tail thrash then slid back down into the water with the entire rack, leaving only my rope left dangling still tied to the boat. That was certainly a first and a real life throwback to the movie Jaws. The blue shark had zero fear of the boat. Once he ate the carcass we reeled in the short line and he quickly inhaled that bait too. We made quick work of him and deployed our second tag of the day into the blue shark and released him. Over the next two hours this shark would eat two more of our baits, fighting harder over each time and we hooked and lost another small mako. When the day ended, we dumped the last of our chum ball into the water and as we were prepping the boat for the run back home, another shark exploded on the chum ball remains. We never did see what came of the boat near us hooked up to whatever was pulling them around for hours so that part of the adventure remains a mystery. In the end we had a good day, deployed a couple of shark tags, had steady action and a nice ride home weather wise. Next time hopefully we get the chance to fight a sea battle with something much larger.
Special thanks AFTCO for supporting our tagging efforts. I broke in my new AFTCO Trucker hat and Heather T shirt on this trip. Both were very comfortable. The T-shirt especially as I don't like heavy tees when fishing.