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Captain’s Log: Thrill of a Shark Chase Will Leave You Jaw-Struck

There's no better time to get hooked on thresher shark fishing.

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T-shark pups like this one gently held by Capt. David Bacon usually are released. Larger sharks make tasty and healthy family meals. (Bacon family photo)

I love the grins on passengers’ faces in the morning, when I tell them we have a decent chance of hooking a thresher shark. That’s what we’ve got going right now. Time for you to get into a shark war.

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Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
The best action is wherever great concentrations of anchovies, sardines, smelt and mackerel can be found. The presence of these schools of baitfish is an open invitation for gangs of wild thresher sharks to prowl and feed throughout the area. The Carpinteria Reef area is particularly known for attracting tonnage of baitfish. Another great local spot for threshers is near the rock island at La Conchita.

Shark fishing is a fun combination of activity and patience. Sometimes we slow-troll Rapala lures, but most of the time we drift with live baits. Aboard my charterboat, WaveWalker, I have one or two people constantly work bait rigs to catch small mackerel, which is the best bait for these sharks. We commonly fish in fairly shallow water from 40 to 120 feet deep, so a light spinning rod is sufficient for bait-catching duties, and makes this chore interesting. Threshers will also eat anchovies, sardines, smelt, and even perch.

There are various viewpoints on the best rig to use for threshers. Try using a seven-foot, medium-action rod and a conventional reel with 25- to 30-pound line, a heavy leader, and a single large bait hook. This is true sportfishing, and that class of rig allows for plenty of sport while giving the angler a reasonable chance of landing the shark.

The size of the hook is determined by the type and size of the bait. With an eight-inch mackerel I use a 6/0 to 7/0 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 hook. With smaller baits I go down to size 1 or 1/0 hooks. No weight is generally required, unless there is considerable wind and the drift is so quick that a live-lined bait stays too close to the surface. In windy conditions, use a sliding sinker on the main line above the leader to keep a bait at least several feet under the surface.

Keep an eye out for jumping threshers. They are known to launch themselves into the air, sometimes repeatedly. These sharks are very active and swim about an area foraging for schools of baitfish. It is not advisable to fire up the engines and chase jumping fish. In fact, the jumper will probably be long gone by the time you get there. They move about an area quickly, so it’s best to wait for them to come around to your location during their foraging pattern. Chumming an injured baitfish periodically will improve chances of attracting a hungry shark, because they really focus on that wounded fish action.

A thresher frequently takes a bait on the run. Because of this high-speed attack pattern, I like to 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. It’s an adrenaline moment! With the reel in gear, line will pay out rapidly and easily, yet a backlash rarely develops. Let the fish 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 because you are in for one long wild ride!

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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