There is something tantalizing about T-sharks. Their classic shark shape strikes a primordial chord in us, yet their overly long, sinuous tails change their menacing form to art. The best place to enjoy this deadly art is on the end of your line.
Jumping “long-tails” have moved inshore following major concentrations of bait, beginning off San Diego and surging up the coast all the way to Point Conception. Now they are within reach of private boats out of all SoCal harbors. It usually isn’t necessary to go far from any harbor in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. The best action is wherever great concentrations of anchovies, sardines, smelt and mackerel can be found. Hard-fighting thresher sharks prowl and feed throughout these areas.
Threshers also use our local waters as a nursery. Shark pups grow fast and strong in our comfortable, food-rich waters. To keep the thresher population robust, it is wise to release pups that are less than about 60 pounds.
The usual fare of baits from the local bait receiver, including anchovies and sardines, will suffice, but larger active baits are best. Mackerel have proven to be the best bait, yet jacksmelt and even perch will tempt a T-shark.
The size of the hook is determined by the type and size of the bait. With an 8-inch mackerel, I use a 6/0 to 7/0 VMC hook and either tail-hook or belly-hook the mackerel. With a smelt, sardine or very large anchovy, I’ll use a 2/0 to 3/0 VMC hook. With smaller baits I go down to a size 1/0 hook and pin multiple baits on a hook. Rig the hook on 8 feet of at least 90-pound steel leader and use a heavy action rod and a reel spooled with 60-pound mono to take up the shock of a shark’s acrobatics.
Drift fishing is a favorite technique. No weight is generally required, unless there is considerable wind and the drift is so quick that a livelined bait stays too close to the surface and attracts seagulls. In windy conditions, use a sliding sinker on the main line above the leader to keep baits roughly 10 feet under the surface. Balloons can be tied to the line at the leader swivel, to keep baits on the surface, on those days when threshers are feeding right on top but the conditions are calm and baits are sinking too deep.
A thresher takes a bait in its mouth on the run, or tail-whacks the bait. To accommodate their high-speed attack tactic, fish with the reel in gear but the drag set extremely lightly and the clicker on. This is “clicker fishing” at its finest! Because the shark hits on the move, the strike is wild and the reel screams loudly. With the reel in gear, the line will pay out rapidly and easily, yet a backlash rarely develops. Let the shark make a good run, then spin down the drag to a medium-heavy drag setting for the line strength, switch the clicker off and slam that hook home. Now hang on tight.
Slow trolling is another effective method. Baits can be trolled in bait hoods or on hooks, but large lures also work very well. A large, stainless steel, deep-diving Rapala is a sure bet. Troll with two of these diving plugs, one from each stern corner.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.