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Big sharks St. Marks

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Big sharks St. Marks

Postby Ted in Tallahassee » May 16th, 2020, 2:48 am

I intentionally went after big sharks a couple of times in the past two months or so off St. Marks, fishing the flats as well as a little ways SE of the mouth of the St. Marks River. I ended up landing two, both were about 7' Brown sharks, aka Sandbar sharks (C. Plumbeus). They're heavy-bodied and look similar to Bull sharks (C. Leucas) but are really finny looking with seemingly oversized pectorals and dorsal fin, and they lack the pug-face look of the Bull.

I will say that the Sandbar shark does not strike me as the savage bloodthirsty eating machine. Once, on a clear flat-calm day, we had chummed up a big one that kept circling the boat. We threw out a piece of dead ladyfish under a float and let it out a ways, but still just in our view. We saw that shark go up to it at least three times, and he did not eat it. It was getting picked at by smooth puffers, and I had a piece of pool noodle on it as a float, and that apparently unnerved the shark enough where he wouldn't eat it. Then we caught a smooth puffer and I figured let's put him out there, what shark could refuse a live fish. Same thing! Came up to it multiple times, wouldn't eat it. Then we caught a ladyfish, and we swapped the live smooth puffer for a live ladyfish. Bingo. That was the ticket. He ate that and he started a good run but the hook apparently never set. Moral of the story: I don't think Sandbar sharks fall into the category of bloodthirsty ravenous maneater. More like a skinny-jeans-wearing millennial only agreeable to eating certain things prepared a certain way.

Another time on a drift in about 10 feet of water I had a half a ladyfish under a float on the big rod and I also had a small live pinfish on a sinker rig on a spinnner to see if I might pick up a big trout or rogue grouper. Both rods got hit within seconds of each other and it was off to the races. While holding both stripping rods in my hands, I managed to pull-start the motor (I'm in my 15' jonboat) and start a fast idle towards the fish. For a few minutes both fish were headed in the same direction and I was gaining line on both, but they started slowly diverting, so I figured I had to settle on the big rod. Luckily when the spinner gave it up, it broke off right by the hook, so I got all my line back. After a good 20 minutes of heaving (and after getting fouled & unfouled on two crab pot ropes). I got the beast to the boat, took some pics, & unhooked & released him.

Deciding that yanking on a relatively little flimsy rod with little thread against these beasts is for the birds, I made up a right proper shark rig. I got about 100 feet of polypropylene rope (it floats) and on one end attached a 6 foot leader of #15 wire with a 14/0 hook on it and made a loop on the other end that I could hook a snap onto. But here's the important part: in the middle, I tied two large boat bumpers, the cylindrical white kind with rope eyes on both ends, tied so that they both laid sideways to the direction of travel that a fish would pull them, so they'd create massive cross-sectional resistance if something tried to pull them through the water. And I figured there'd be no way a fish is going to take those things down underwater very long, if at all. So off we went, my son and I, to test this thing out. Drifting the flats, we caught a big bluefish and put him on as bait, and I attached the snap of the big rod to the loop on the end of the rope. Technically, this is a rod and reel setup; it just has a heavy duty leader and cork. To keep the bait off the bottom I attached a mall empty water bottle a few feet up from the hook. We let all this out, drifted, and waited, while we cast clacking corks.

After about 20 minutes, WHAM those boat bumpers started blasting through the water trailing foam and leaving a wake and and the big rod's clicker is screaming and it looked like those bumpers were tied to the back of a boat. We started the boat and leisurely fast-idled toward the boat bumpers, reeling up until we got to the "leader." Once I got hold of the rope I set the big rod in the holder and it was Old Man and the Sea. Pulling in a huge, heavy fish by hand is an experience. He made a couple more runs and I had to let go of the rope, but he tired pretty quickly, and we got him to the boat, took some pics, and I lost a pair of pliers trying to wrench the hook that was embedded in his mouth. I ended up getting the hook out by making a loop in the rope line, slipping it over the straight shank part of the hook, getting it so the loop is on the curved part f the hook, holding the straight shank part down against the side of the shark's head, and with the shark's head aiming towards you, yanking hard on the rope and forcing it straight back and out of the sharks jaw. Sorta like defusing a bomb. I really need to figure out a better, safer method of getting the hooks out. Need to make some sort of tool--with a long handle!
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Re: Big sharks St. Marks

Postby Juan » May 16th, 2020, 6:50 am

Great read! :thumbup: I felt like I was there and it brought back some good memories. When I was a kid, we used to tie an empty 6 gallon fuel tank to the end of the rope and there were some sharks that would pull it underwater like a popping cork.
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Re: Big sharks St. Marks

Postby zload » May 17th, 2020, 10:19 pm

2008 Key West 196 Bay Reef
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Re: Big sharks St. Marks

Postby Srbenda » May 18th, 2020, 8:19 am

Very good, now where are the pictures of these fish?

I have seen a few big ones cruising the flats, and catch small ones regularly, usually on live pins. Never gone after some beasts, maybe I should...
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