Bonnethead sharks provide inshore anglers another summer target

Bonnethead sharks occupy many of the same waters as redfish and feed on similar things. (Picture by Jeff Burleson)

Bonnethead sharks are prime summer targets

Summer conditions have arrived in the coastal waters off North Carolina and South Carolina. And what better way to spend a warm day than to catch a rambunctious representative of the saltwater family, a bonnethead shark. It’s prime time to start targeting them, and the pristine shell banks near Georgetown, S.C., are as good a place as any.

Greg Holmes of Fish Skinny Guide Service targets these toothy critters when he has a client looking for a different experience in the confines of the marsh.

“Summer is ideal for catching bonnetheads. We catch them when we are trying to — and sometimes when we aren’t,” said Holmes (843-241-0594). “Bonnetheads will patrol the same oyster-lined creek banks a redfish will. And they compete for crabs with redfish, too. Bonnetheads will eat all kinds of stuff. But they definitely have an affinity for the crab fare.”

Bonnetheads are found swimming along the margin between oyster bars and mud banks on the lower end of the tide. They are looking for blue crabs, and that makes it easy for anglers wanting to target bonnetheads if they don’t mind catching a few reds.

Holmes primarily fishes out of Georgetown ramps that access North Inlet and the Mother Norton area. But he will venture to the Santee Delta on occasion. Both places are ideal for finding bonnetheads from June through September.

“I like to target the transition area between the oysters and the mud bank on the main channels and larger creeks. The ones (closer) to the inlet always seem to have more bonnetheads versus the ones in the rear of the estuary,” he said.

Fresh crab chunks are great bonnethead baits

These sharks are cruising the edges looking for crabs, shrimp or anything to eat. And the best times are typically on the lower phases of the tide.

“We do better when the water is out of the grass and is right along the edge of the oysters,” Holmes said. “They like to swim along these edges looking for food. And sometimes you will even see their dorsal fins out of the water. That is a perfect giveaway.”

As the water recedes, blue crabs will slide along the edges of structure, waiting out the tide or looking for food. It’s a perfect opportunity for bonnetheads to fill up on their most-favored meals. Chunks of fresh, crushed blue crab is prime rib and lobster for these toothy critters and what Holmes chooses to use when targeting bonnetheads. He takes fresh crabs and cuts them into several pieces and threads them onto an offset circle hook.

“It really depends on the size of the crab. But you can get at least two pieces on smaller crabs and as many as five or six pieces on large crabs. I use a simplified Carolina rig, using heavy, 40-pound fluorocarbon and a couple of heavy split shot,” he said.

While bonnethead are the target, crushed crab is also a prime meal for redfish. Holmes often catches reds in the same areas he is targeting bonnetheads.

Bonnethead fishing is quite different than the typical shark fishing, with chunks of fish on the bottom in deep water. But they can make for an exciting afternoon especially on light tackle right in the prime summer season.

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About Jeff Burleson 1257 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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