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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 2:46 am | Fair 45º


Captain’s Log: Thresher Sharks Prowl SoCal Inshore Waters

Capt. Tiffany Vague, manager at Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center in Santa Barbara, with a 90-pound, good-eating size thresher shark caught near Carpinteria.
Capt. Tiffany Vague, manager at Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center in Santa Barbara, with a 90-pound, good-eating size thresher shark caught near Carpinteria. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

There is something very special about T-sharks. Their classic shark shape strikes a primordial chord in us, yet their overly-long sinuous tails change their form to art. The best place to enjoy this deadly art is on the end of your line. After that, the best place for this culinary delicacy is on your dinner plate.

The jumping long-tails have moved inshore and upcoast following major concentrations of bait, beginning off of San Diego and surging up the coast all the way to Point Conception.

Hard-fighting thresher sharks prowl and feed throughout the SoCal Bight. 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 the counties of San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara. The best action is wherever great concentrations of anchovies, sardines, smelt or mackerel can be found. In this warm water year, small baitfish are hard to find, but we have mega-tonnage of mackerel.

Threshers also use our waters as a nursery. Shark pups grow fast and strong in our comfortable and food-rich waters. To keep the thresher population healthy, it is wise to release pups under 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 eight-inch mackerel, I use a 7/0 to 9/0 heavy hook and either tail-hook or belly-hook the mackerel. With a smelt, sardine or anchovies, I’ll use a 2/0 to 3/0 hook and pin a few baits on one hook. Rig the hook on 8 feet of at least 90lb steel leader and use a heavy action rod and a reel spooled with 50 pound braided line. Stop by my shop, Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center, for help with tackle.

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 ten 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 water, but the conditions are calm and baits are sinking too deep.

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.

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, 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 because you just lit the fuse on a very large stick of dynamite!

— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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