Friday, November 16 , 2018, 12:24 pm | Fair 67º


Captain’s Log: Small Sharks, Big Fun

Wide-eyed kids head to sea on their earliest fishing adventures, sometimes just old enough to turn the handle on the reel, as long as a grown-up is holding the rod and assisting as required. What makes these kids happy?

Sharks! No question about it. They can catch all the other fish and have fun doing it, but nothing compares to the psychological excitement of catching a shark. 

I recall one recent charter trip aboard my boat, WaveWalker when the kids latched on sharks. We were fishing just off the side of a low reef extending offshore, and we began hooking pinback sharks. Most weighed about 10 pounds, with a few 15 pounders mixed in.

These were sharks the kids could battle, and they had a blast catching and releasing about a dozen sharks over a couple of hours before they finally lost interest and went happily back to playing with the anchovies and sardines in the bait tank (a favorite pass time for most kids).

When relatives or friends with kids from inland states or counties come to visit some of my regular charter clients, we often take them out and specifically look for small sharks to catch.

A kid from Kansas, for example, becomes the hero of his or her school when he or she returns home talking about shark fishing on the west coast. They can tell stories about catching several sharks and feel great about it.

The funny part is … the parents get just as excited as the kids. After all, the parents are just bigger kids themselves!

These shark species include smooth-hound, pinback, shovelnose guitarfish, leopard and sand shark. These sharks can be found and caught in shallow water and without having to travel hours to get to the best spots.

When targeting sharks for kids, a good plan is to head out of harbor and fish near-shore kelp beds and reef zones. These species spend much of their time in shallow water, less than 80 feet deep, and tend to forage along the edge of structure such as kelp beds and reefs. 

Drift or anchor just outside of a kelp bed and fish the bottom. If bites don’t come within about twenty minutes, move on to the next spot. Shallow reef areas are likely places to find sharks, and they tend to forage over sand spots right adjacent to a reef.

Halibut also like the same terrain, so don’t be surprised when one of these prize flatfish comes up to go home to dinner with you.

Small sharks are great fun to catch. They tend to hang out in schools, which means that when one is hooked, you can usually count on fast-paced action.

Most of these sharks have white tender flaky meat, which is pretty decent table fare.

It is best to clean the shark at sea, then take it home and soak it in hot tap water for about ten minutes. After a soaking in hot water, the skin will come off easily, and ammonia has leached out of the flesh.

My personal preference is to marinate small shark meat in citrus juice, such as tangelo, and then barbecue it.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.