August is one of the hottest months of the year, and with the heat, a good deal of fishing slows down. Many gamefish feed for very short periods of time and then find cool spots to lay low in throughout the heat of the day. The heat doesn’t seem to slow down the shark bite however, and Capt. Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters said one of the best fights anglers can hope for can happen this month when he’s targeting blacktip sharks.
“One thing that makes this month so great for blacktip sharks is the abundance of menhaden,” Bennett said. “These baitfish are traveling in huge schools just 2 to 3 miles off the beach, especially around Kiawah Island. These schools are easy to find, and it only takes one or two casts with a net to fill your livewell. I like to see rods bent all day, so the first thing I do is load my livewell.”
Anglers should hook menhaden through the nose with 8/0 hooks. Spinning reels in the 4500 class are good, and Bennett spools his with 65-pound Power Pro braid. He uses a combination of fluorocarbon and single-strand steel wire for a leader.
“From my main line, I tie a 3-foot section of 100-pound fluorocarbon. I add another 3-foot section of wire to that, with the hook on the wire end. The fluorocarbon adds flexibility, and the wire is to keep the sharks from biting through it,” he said.
Bennett (843-367-3777) likes to target these sharks in areas that shrimp boats pull trawls, even if the shrimp boats are not passing through when he is fishing. Sharks get used to finding easy meals in these areas, so they stick close by, and it is not difficult to entice them into biting. These areas are usually within 3 miles of the beach.
“You can catch these big gamefish that close to the beach. The Gulf Stream is great if you’ve got plenty of time, but fishing this way, you can catch your share of these big sharks and be home in time for lunch,” said Bennett, who catches most of his sharks in water between 15 feet and 30 feet deep.
“No matter how many anglers I have on my boat, I only use two rods, because using more than that just isn’t necessary. We will get enough bites so everyone gets plenty of rod time. Having more than two rods would cause too much chaos,” said Bennett.
“These sharks range from 30 pounds to 150 pounds, and blacktips put on an awesome show from the time they bite until they are gaffed or cut loose. When they first hit, they pull line out so fast it sounds like a grenade going off. Once they realize they’re hooked, they usually jump five or six times — truly spectacular jumps. It’s an exciting fight that is as good a fight as any marlin puts on.”
But these sharks are good for more than just the show.
“A lot of people don’t like the taste of shark meat, and one reason is because most sharks don’t have urinary glands, so they urinate through their skin. This is one reason most shark meat has such a strong flavor. Blacktips are one of the few sharks that do have urinary glands, so this isn’t a problem when cooking,” said Bennett, adding that the meat is as tender and tasty as any seafood you’ll sample.
Bennett prefers to anchor down and to have both rods in rod holders after he puts the bait out. Once a rod doubles over, and angler grabs it, Bennett releases the anchor and cranks the outboard. With the angler standing on the front deck, Bennett chases down the shark, letting the angler reel in slack as he goes.
“Once I get within 30 feet of the shark, I put the outboard in idle, then let the angler and shark go at it,” Bennett said, explaining that this wears the shark down, making it easier to land.
Bennett said anglers need to make sure these sharks are over 54 inches long before gaffing them. He also said it’s important for anglers to be able to positively identify what species of shark they have because the size limit varies by species.
While blacktips are Bennett’s preferred species, he said they also catch spinner sharks and occasionally hook up with hammerheads.