Warm summer water and large schools of sardine have ushered in sharks in abundance.
It seems no matter where you decide to go angling, there is another shark-fishing opportunity.
Large schools of blacktip sharks have invaded the warm shallow water off the beaches and sandbars. On the flats, bonnetheads _ the smallest member of the hammerhead family _ are the most abundant species, though a handful of larger lemon and bull sharks are being spotted. Offshore, big schools of spinner sharks have been dominating the scene.
The great thing about shark fishing is its simplicity. Sharks are by no means picky eaters, especially this time of year when the warm water has their metabolism racing like an outboard. Just about any bloody, oily bait will produce a bite.
Mullet, live or dead, is my favorite. If picking live bait, suspend it under an inflated balloon to track the bait's location. This forces the bait to struggle more, and it sends inviting vibrations to sharks in the vicinity.
Tackle depends on the size of the shark you're pursuing. For a 4-5-foot blacktip, medium size spinning gear _ about 20-pound test _ is sporting.
Connect a length of at least 100-pound monofilament to the line via a swivel. The leader should be a couple of feet longer than the size of the shark since its rough skin and tails easily can wear through the line over the course of a fight. Wire leader also works well.
Hooks should be large and stout. Don't use the stainless steel type because there always is the possibility you won't get the hook back. One that will rust in time is better for sharks. For these blacktips, a 7/0 should be successful.
Since sharks aren't particular, presentations don't have to be as exact as for snook or tarpon. As long as knots are tight and drag on the reel is smooth, you should be in good shape.
The key to shark fishing is drawing them to you.
Often, when working snook in the same place for a while, you'll notice sharks and stingrays nosing around the boat. This is a direct product of your livewell's overflow. The oil in the water from the bait attracts these scavengers, who mainly rely on their sense of smell.
The best way to lure sharks is to get as much stinky bait and chum in the water as possible.
A chum bag and some menhaden oil suspended over the side of the boat are good starts. A few handfuls of live and dead sardines or some chunks of fresh-cut mullet or ladyfish should do the rest.
You shouldn't have to wait more than 15-20 minutes for the sharks to show. Though they may come in slow at first, the sharks usually exhibit little fear of the boat once they get going. Remember to keep the slick going the entire time, even once the bite is on.
Sharks are mainly nocturnal species and seem to be particularly active near dawn and dusk.
Blacktips are exceptional fighters that can rival tarpon at this size. Blistering runs 100-plus yards are not uncommon for these speedy predators.
About the only knock on them is that they're too easy to coax a bite out of, but you won't hear me complain.
Capt. Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or inshoreadventureaol.com.