Friday night we had 5 lines in the water, roughly 500 – 600 feet out. We were only hitting sandbar sharks at Conquest. The team requested we move to Herring Point Beach, however we were already set up, and moving would have proved difficult for some of the teams. We have now become very mobile, just in case we need to change venues at a moments notice. It can be discouraging, sitting there watching a reel, waiting for it to scream. It is even more disturbing, when you have a group of people waiting on you, waiting on a reel to scream. The research team has been very cool, and fun to hang out with : Jimmy, Greg, Simone, Jericka, and Chelsea. I appreciate their patience, everyone is having a tough time catching sand tigers. The water is very warm everywhere, the fact we caught 2 tiger sharks from the surf is proof of that. We had to wait Friday night for the wind to calm down a tad, it was blowing a 12 m.p.h. steady clip all day long. When it laid down, the water was nice and calm. All the teams started kayaking out bait, once the moon came out, and lit up the water. We definitely need more kayakers, that is a tough job.
Chris Fortner showed up around midnight, I think, 22 plus hour days, tend to blend. He had a ginormous Penn Reel with 3,000 feet of new line. He looked at me and said … “hold tight man, I am going to catch you a shark.” His bait was kayaked out 12-1500 feet, and set. He put the rod in a holder 30 yards down the beach. We were very spread out Friday night, almost too spread out. It was hard for the researchers to hear anything. We have since solved those issues. When a fish hits they need to know right away, so they can record the time for the fight duration. They also have to be there when the shark is beached. We can not pull any of these protected sharks out of the water, with out the team present. This is why catching multiple sharks will not make it any easier, in fact it would be more difficult. Chris’s reel clicked twice, then the line went slack.
We hear FISH ON!! and the DSU research team springs into action. Headlights are running down the beach like fireflies on a mission. Chris is fighting the shark with a harness and belt. You do not want to reel in a 6 foot plus shark with out at least a fighting belt. One hard run from a fish, and your singing soprano. He finally landed a 6 foot sand tiger shark, my man! He said he would, and he did, gotta love that guy. The DSU team was excited. Now, when we land the shark, we have to back off, and let the DSU team in to do their stuff. Once they measure, sex, tag, and take a genetic sample. We have to release the shark back to the surf. A process that has to take under 5 minutes, this is NASCAR with teeth gang, and requires some “up close and personal” contact with these toothy units. We remove or cut the hook, depending on what is required, and drag the shark back into the surf. That is the fun part, getting knee deep with a 6 foot, 200 pound, angry shark. These are the smaller sharks too, they get much bigger. After releasing the first sand tiger, some of my volunteers decided there is no way they were getting anywhere near that big of a shark. Apparently that was their first sand tiger shark, and it freaked them out a little bit. I don’t blame them, these do look like your atypical shark that could eat you, however that is just not the case. What did they think we were catching, smooth dogfish? Chris Fortner is now excited, and determined to catch more sharks. We tried the rest of the night. Lacking in kayakers and yaks has been a problem, I believe I have solved, thanks to Delaware Paddlesports.
The research team was all packed up at 5 a.m. and Chris was just launching a fresh bait, right into the sunrise. He took it out over 1500 feet, and dropped. He paddled back in, with porpoises in the back ground, and a beautiful sunrise. The team was tired from a long night of anticipation, we did get one shark, they now had 4 of their 25, what could it hurt to stay 20 more minutes? The reel screamed 15 minutes later, and Chris landed a nice 5 foot sand tiger shark. This is the best time to fish for them, evening into morning. The DSU team grabbed their gear, did their thing, and we released another sand tiger. Everyone was happy we produced 2 sharks in one night. We should have produced more with all of the lines we had out, but we needed to be farther out. We packed up the team, drove them off the beach, they headed back to Dover, DE and I went home to regear and take a nap (2 hours a day seems to have sufficed so far). We decided we would change venues for Saturday night, and meet at Herring Point Beach. The reports from there have been good for sharks, better than Conquest.
I regeared in Long Neck, Chris Fortner was pier, and inlet hopping looking for bait. We had just missed the bluefish blitz at the inlet rail. I called around, and picked up some baits here and there. We had enough for an evening, not an entire night, and would have to catch more in the surf. Kevin Baldwin was already set up on Herring Point beach when I arrived at Cape Henlopen State Park. On the beach, we parked all of our vehicles in a “bunch to cut down on wind. Which was much worse than the day before, and didn’t seem like it was slowing down. Mike and his crew had just come via magnolia, and said it was hurricane like rain up there. Behind us you could see a storm in the distance. It peeled away, and the wind started to subside a bit. We set up shark camp, and I got a cook fire going. I needed food and warmth, I was going to get very wet, kayaking baits and landing fish. We have put teams together to handle certain aspects of the catch. I spent a lot of time Friday night with, getting wet, and releasing sharks I did not catch. John MacKinnon kayaked out bait all night long, and we were all very grateful. I did several times, and that can sap your energy fast. Steve and Mark were also there, and had been most of the day. They were only hitting sandbar sharks. That was at least a favorable sign, that when it was darker we might see some sand tigers.
Kristen set up her gear after showing off her MacGyver rod rack. She made some nice modifications to her rack with things she found in the garage, and a dremel tool. She brought her kayak and gear, set her lines up and yaked out her own bait. Dropped her line,and headed back in covered in shiners. The surf is thick with them, and the sand fleas make the ground look alive. She got her gear all settled and set up, when the reel screamed. FISH ON!! this time the DSU researchers and sharkin teams are all near one another enough they can be heard. She jumped on her line, and started cranking, like a boss, she landed a 7.5 foot sand tiger shark. It was huge! I helped land, and beach the shark for the research team. They swarmed in, did their thing, and we released the shark back to the surf. Kristen had a grin on her face we couldn’t wipe off if we tried. She was ear to ear for hours, literally glowing. In this picture she is not posing she just can’t stop smiling. We rebaited her gear, and she took it out again, determined. She was also allowed to name the shark, so she named it after her youngest son Brandon. John, Kristen, and I took turns yaking out baits. Carl Walker helped me release sharks all night, as did John Charron. We didn’t catch any more sand tigers that night. Teresa caught a sand bar shark, that was a good fight, and hooked into something that fought her like crazy. Chris had to help her hold the rod, and we had to pour water on the reel. This unknown beast from the depths lifted her off the ground, with Chris holding the rod in place. If he hadn’t grabbed that rod when he did, she might have gone for a ride, because I doubt she would have let go. They fought this thing for about 30 minutes. The line snapped off eventually, and we will never know what it was, but we all have a story about the one that got away. She is now determined to get back in the surf this week.
We will meet the researchers again this Thursday, through the weekend. I have a few volunteers coming out, and I am hoping a crew from Ocean City, will be here too. In the mean time, I have the gear I need for a team or 2, and the kayaks. I need some dedicated bodies, I really need people willing to yak out bait. Everyone only wants to reel in a shark, they do not want to get their hands wet. If you want to catch a shark, you have to yak out baits. There are a few exceptions, but we need kayakers the most, with skills, not first timers playing in the surf. Anyone is welcome, but again this is serious business, so be respectful of that. The ladies will be back in full swing, and are ready to go, when we are given the word. Everyone is on standby, and we may have to wait until the weekend.
Kevin Baldwin is making gut hook preventers, and we are only using the gear I like to use. One of the things being studied is the different techniques, and equipment to catch sharks from the surf. The “piano” wire, and J hooks are not good to use, always gut hook sharks, but are the most common, and cheapest sold. It is the first hook everyone grabs, “sharks” is clearly written on the package. I let everyone fish with what they brought to the table, and normally use. That is one of the points of this study. I took a lot of grief online over a picture of a J hook, and was taken completely out of context. This is for research gentlemen, we are not fishing for fun to catch sharks, show off our pictures, and brag about how skilled we are reeling in a toothy unit from the surf. The laws in Delaware are strict for these protected sharks, the folks in Jersey and NY who hit me with the “cyber beat down” do not have to abide the same laws. You guys can pose for pictures with your sharks, and drag them up the beach, we can not. This is one of the areas this study is also covering, whether beaching these animals actually kills them. Honestly, with the right gear, Teresa’s youngest daughter could reel in one of these beasts, those reels are basically boat winches on a stick. That being said, it is not very hard to catch a scavenger with a piece of dead fish on a hook, they just have to be out there. We will see what the week produces for DSU.
Over the past few days the surf has been good for blue fish, spot, croaker, kingfish, flounder, and a few blowfish. We are seeing flounder, croaker,trout, spot, sand perch, stripers, and puppy drum in the bays and Massey’s landing. Holt’s Landing area was hot the other day for flounder on minis and gulp. The flounder are still here just not where you normally find them, seems to be the biggest complaint. My “old Salt” buddies say their hot spots are dead, but they are finding flounder everywhere else. The fish are on the constant move because the water is too warm. Higher tides from the full moon pushes the bait fish closer to shore lines, and the flounder stack up on the banks for food. I know many of my buddies have caught more keepers in less time this year, then all of last year. There are a lot of fish out there, the inlet and Massey’s is hot at night for bluefish and shad. The problem we are seeing is the amount of baitfish is huge this year. Fishing is competing with real food, mimicking the bait is key this year, more than ever. The tuna bite has been very good, and the White Marlin open should see some interesting catches this year. I am excited to see what unusual fish we pull from the surf this week. Still waiting for information on whether that is the first tiger shark pulled from the surf in Delaware, with proof.