Every summer, more than 17 million tourists come to South Carolina’s Grand Strand to feel the warm sand between their toes and take a quick dip into the ocean.
If tourists knew how many large, toothy critters were swimming just a few feet away, the surf zone would be far less congested. Fortunately, the sharks that call these waters home are there for the massive schools of oily baitfish and not the Williams family from Ohio. Anglers looking for a powerful battle find these gorgeous waters in the shadows of the high-rise hotels prime sharking grounds. And as the water continues to heat up, the shark fishing just gets better and better and better.
Tom Cushman of Captain Cush’s Calmwater Charters said the shark fishing is fantastic in August.
“We have sharks everywhere this time of year,” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “In addition to all of the baitfish schools all over, the shrimpers are chumming up the water and making perfect conditions for sharks. It’s a sharky place around here over the summer.”
Cushman targets sharks anywhere from just behind the breakers to 40- to 50-foot depths. While he targets black tips, he will often catch hammerheads, Atlantic sharpnose, sandbars and even some jumbo tigers.
“We pick up big tiger sharks all over, but we will target the big tigers at the reefs when a customer wants to catch a real big one,” he said.
Over the past few years, it has not been unusual for Cushman to sight-cast and catch tiger sharks weighing more than 500 pounds around reefs in 30 to 50 feet of water.
Cushman favors black tips because of the acrobatic shows they put on when hooked. They frequently jump clear of the water several times, which adds a little extra excitement to the battle. But all of these sharks can put up a good fight, and they are very plentiful in nearshore waters over the summer.
Cushman looks for large schools of menhaden in 20 to 30 feet of water, and he will drift baits near these schools.
“The sharks are feeding on these schools of baitfish, and a menhaden or pinfish with a severed tail will not last long suspended 8 or 10 feet below the surface,” he said. “I cut their tails off to add a scent trail in the water, and if it’s a little slow, I will cut up some bait and chum. But, you rarely need to chum around these schools or near a reef. The sharks are very plentiful and ready to eat.”
Since sharks are equipped with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth, Cushman uses a 6/0 circle hook with 4 feet of No. 9 wire to a swivel and then 8 feet of 130-pound monofilament leader. When he is sight-casting to a 700-pound tiger, he will use a larger hook and a wire leader.
As the waters heat up in mid-summer, the schools of menhaden and mullet congregate nearshore waters, attracting predators, and the hotter it gets, the better the shark fishing will be.