Sharks are one of the most exciting, voracious and cooperative fish in the world. They are popular everywhere you find anglers. They are in a class of their own, and some of us dedicated much of our fishing time chasing them. Fortunately for those of us writing the content, there are more species around than you can shake a fly-rod at -- and shark are only one of our favorites. From small blacktips that make the best marinade fish cubes you ever put on a barbeque grill to 500+ pound monsters not easy to release, there is one for any angler out there to enjoy.
Natural Shark Baits
Bonita: Called "False Albacore" bonita are tuna, albeit very bloody and not at all edible to modern tastes (their bones are sure to show up in Indian middens – garbage dumps). This excellent bait is commonly found frozen in local tackle shops. Call around and ask; I’m sure there is a tackle/bait shop in your area that has the baits. And if you find a store, frequent it. This effective bait can also be caught near and offshore trolling small spoons. Also watch for diving birds – like any offshore predators, if they find bait they're going to drive them towards the surface, where birds see them and join the fun.
Very easy to catch on the beaches and can be found in inner coastal waters. Bluefish are themselves predators, and will hit cut squid, shiny spoons, jigs, and just about anything you throw at them. They are very oily and bloody – perfect candidates for use as shark bait whole or cut into chunks.
We often bump into bluerunners when we're using Sabiki rigs to catch threadfin – they seem to be attracted to the same kind of structure. Although you will catch them in open water using shrimp, pieces of anything shiny is good (like cut up threadfins), and they will also hit small 'crappie' jigs quite easily. They make outstanding bait for just about anything you want to catch nearshore or offshore, but they should be among the first things you freeze for catching shark when you're on your way home from a grouper or kingfish trip and any are left in the well.
These slimy fish are actually in the same family as the tarpon we spend so much time and money trying to catch in the spring and summer. Jumping, fun to catch, and able to shoot a grey substance from the stern-side of their longish bodies onto anything white; your boat, your shirts, your sneakers, anything. You can catch them on flats or in open water, usually under diving birds like any predator. Chunked they make great bait for small sharks; large and live or dead they are incredible shark candy.
We have literally seen big shark come into the outer edges and up from underneath big schools of big Jack crevalle and literally cut the entire school to threads. If you are on the beach in the mood to catch a shark, try using a small spoon on relatively light tackle to catch our abundant jack; they're often there even if you do not see anything moving or birds in the sky. As soon as you catch one, put a 12/0 chromium steel hook just ahead of its dorsal fin like you would a scaled sardine for snook. Let it swim and hang on.
Stingrays are found is shallow waters. Look for them on the beaches and around the flats or cruising break walls as well. Use cut mullet, shrimp or squid with a circle hook. A 1/0 hook will work fine to catch any stingray. Using them as bait is another thing; use hooks relatively related to the size of the "bait." But this is another obviously natural bait for shark – they eat them if they see them.
Like any oily fish, mackerel make for great shark bait. If you're out in open water or on the beaches and can catch them, by all means fish them alive. Shark eat wounded live bait far faster then they will pick up dead bait – although they're opportunity eaters; they eat when and what they can.
This common and abundant vegetarian can be found in a variety of places. It can be caught with large nets or on bread-dough seasoned with seaweed. They're around all our beaches, flats, fishing piers and break walls. But they're also found in all fish shops – and you can buy 10 or 20 pounds of them relatively cheap and freeze what you do not use.Most of the baits we use for big shark are themselves smaller predators and fun to catch. This image shows a fly-rod catch. The bait is almost -- not quite but almost - as much fun to catch sometimes as the beasts that eat five pounds of oily protein for an appetizer.
You will not be the only people at the docks when the charter boats come in at the end of the day – but they're totally into sharing the carcasses of the fish they're cleaning. Grouper, amberjack, kingfish, tuna, snapper, and even barracuda come back by the dozens, and are cut into fillets or are headed at the docks where the boats are. And shark are totally into eating beef, pork, or any meats that you find do not smell up to par. Freeze them to save them, take them fishing with you (not in the sandwich bag), put a big hook on a piece of bad roast beef, and try putting it on the bottom of one of our big Gulf channels or beaches. While we attempt to list every possible bait you could use to catch a shark, like all rules in fishing, our list is not complete. A shark is an aggressive predator at times, and will pick up a tire and somehow determine it's good enough to eat. Typically, any fish you catch will be good bait to catch a shark, but this list of the most commonly used shark baits will get you on your way.