It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, but for anglers who fish up and down South Carolina’s coastline, it’s been shark week for more than the past few days.
That’s especially true for anyone who has set foot onboard Capt. Rob Bennett’s boat in the last month or so. Bennett said since commercial shrimp season started, the shark fishing has been so hot that many anglers haven't had the desire to fish for anything else.
“It’s like shark alley out there. And this isn’t anchoring down, tossing out big baits on the bottom, and then sitting around waiting for a shark to show up. This is fast action, and for someone looking for an exciting fight on rod and reel, this is as exciting as it gets,” said Bennett, who operates LowCountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777).
Bennett said the best action is behind shrimp boats. The sharks, like many other creatures, follow the shrimp boats, knowing that an easy meal will soon come their way, either from by-catches that are tossed overboard by shrimpers, or from sea life that gets naturally tumbled around and stunned by the shrimp nets dragging by.
“I pull up behind the shrimp boats, load a hook up with cut bait or shrimp – it doesn’t really matter as long as there is something on the hook – and I have my anglers toss it into the wash behind the nets. I only use one rod at a time, because it gets too crazy if you hook more than one at a time,” Bennett said.
“These sharks will sometimes come up and check out the bait, swimming on the right side of it, then the left side of it. It’s exciting to see. And when they hit the bait, it can sound like explosion on the water,” he said.
And that’s when the fun really begins. The drag of the reel zings as the shark makes a run, and the angler holding the rod gets a charge that only a shark can give.
Depending on the size of the shark, Bennett may coach his angler while the boat sits in idle, or he may put the boat in gear to follow the shark. Once he gets within 30 feet or so of the shark, he lets the angler and shark battle it out.
“We’ve been catching some really big blacktip sharks lately. Some I’m sure are approaching the state record, but you can’t get a shark that size in the boat without gaffing and killing him, and we won’t do that unless the person is going to eat it,” said Bennett, who uses a long de-hooking tool to release the sharks once they are worn down and reeled to the side of the boat.
“We’ve been catching other species too. Everything from bull sharks to hammerheads,” said Bennett.
While kids who haven’t spent much time fishing for big fish are always excited about hooking into a shark, Bennett said even seasoned anglers get a thrill out of this. While accidentally catching a shark while fishing for other species isn’t uncommon, it’s a different feeling to target them in this way, to watch them approach the bait, and then to feel their raw power as they chomp down and fight.