An exciting bite awaits South Carolina anglers looking for something a little more adventurous than the norm. Fishing for big sharks is not the most-common angling activity, especially from the beach, but as the Charleston-based members of Requiem Fishing know, it is well worth the odd looks they get when beachcombers walk by and see their big-game rods and reels lined up.
While a 5-footer may qualify as big to some folks, Stan Warren, Russ Shippe, Richard Sines, and Blanding Levin are usually disappointed for one so small. With several fish longer than 10 feet to their credit this year – including a tiger shark that measure more than 13-feet – these guys typically use baits that are too large for most 5-foot sharks to even swallow.
On Edisto Beach this past Saturday, the group wrangled several sharks to shore, including a lemon shark that measured 8 ½-feet long that bit Levin's bait, a 2-foot section of a barracuda. Using a fighting belt with his Barrett Rod and Okuma Makaira 50 reel, Levin whipped the lemon in a 20-minute fight. With his calf muscles bulging as his heels dug into the sand to keep him from tumbling into the surf, his body was just as much a part of essential equipment as his 250-pound wire leader and 12/0 Owner circle hook.
Once the shark was in shallow water, Shippe roped its tail, and they all dragged the shark out of the water, measured and tagged it, and then released it back into the Atlantic Ocean.
These guys use gear that is made for offshore fishing, and anyone who has ever tried to hurl a bait with such a large reel, they know it's just not possible. Instead, these anglers use a kayak for placing their baits. One angler paddles the bait out to where the water deepens, and another stays with the rod, ensuring the fishing line doesn't tangle as it comes off the reel.
"We look at maps and know where the water depth drops off, and we shoot for that spot," said Shippe.
And if wrestling with a big shark doesn't get your heart pumping, try paddling a kayak out into the crashing surf with a hunk of bloody bait aboard.
In the dark.
"It's exhilarating," said Levin.
Keeping the bait in one spot is an important and ongoing challenge as the tide shifts and slows or quickens. Levin used an 8-ounce anchor weight, which has four prongs to dig into the sand, and he added another 8-ounce weight to get it down more quickly.
"When he drops the bait from the kayak, the guy at the rod has to set it by reeling in slack quickly, or the current will catch the slack line and make it tough for the weight to stick," Shippe said.
Once all the rods are set, it's a waiting game. Anglers can kick back, have a snack, and enjoy the sounds of the ocean, but getting too comfortable would be a mistake, because once a reel's bait alarm sounds, it's game on.