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Chuck with a 60lb Black Tip SharkShark Fishing in a Kayak

by Michael Edwards

What comes to mind when someone says Myrtle Beach, South Carolina? Golf, right?    Well, to a small group of hardcore anglers "SHARK" is the word that comes to mind.

Not for the Weak at Heart
The coast of the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Georgia is prime hunting grounds for sharks, all types of sharks, and Myrtle Beach is no different. Fishing from the shores off Myrtle Beach can bring you many different types of sharks:

  • Spinners
  • Black Tip
  • Tiger
  • Sand Shark
  • Lemon
  • Bull
  • Even an occasional Mako

And you don't need to hire a large fishing boat to catch them. You simply need a kayak and some serious guts!

Bob with a Healthy Little SpinnerNow, lest you think shark fishing in a kayak is not a dangerous sport, consider that during the time of the fishing discussed in this article a 10 year old boy was rushed to a hospital with shark bites to the back of his head and his upper legs. From reports, the boy did fine and recovered, but it clearly shows that this is not a sport without risk. And for the two weeks that our anglers were in Myrtle Beach this past August, red "shark warning" flags were readily seen up and down the beach. Additionally, sharks are caught daily by anglers who are surfcasting for Bluefish. The surfcasting caught sharks typically break off due to their sheer speed and strength coupled with the often pounding effects of the surf crashing against the beach, but they are caught fairly easily.

What Does it Take
During August of 1999 Charles "Chuck" Geary and his family headed down to Myrtle Beach in search of Spinner and Black Tip sharks (the two most commonly caught species). Two years prior I had the privilege to join them on their annual pilgrimage. During that year we hooked a number of sharks but failed to bring any to the beach. With a few more years of practice, Chuck and some friends have perfected the technique and have brought back pictures to prove it.

Chuck in the Kayak....Trolling

The trick is using a special "sea-kayak" which allows you much more flexibility when battling these powerful fish. In addition to the kayak it takes nerves of steel and a steady balance as well as some special tackle to bring one of these fish in. First, make sure you have a very stout 8 + feet surf casting rod. Then spool it with 50 pound test monofilament. Next attach an 80 pound steel leader. Finally, tie an 8/0 hook to the end.

Ryan Masterfully Casting the NetNow, getting the bait is a sport in itself and Chuck's son Ryan is a master. Ryan starts by unraveling the 8 foot diameter casting net. He drapes it over his shoulder and places the retrieve line on one wrist. Then he walks into the surf until he's in 2 to 4 feet of water depth. He then carefully surveys the breaking waves looking for "v"'s in the water. These v's indicate that whiting and mullet are surfing the waves just below the surface. A quick cast of the net and a number of whiting and mullet are landed for bait.

Then after taking the whiting and releasing them, Ryan carefully collects the mullet and places them in a bucket of sea water. He, his father and their fellow anglers then carefully place the mullet on rods rigged for the purpose and cast into about neck deep water. It is at this point that they catch the bluefish. Once a Bluefish is landed....the art of catching sharks begins.

Going for the Gusto
The snapper Bluefish (usually 12 to 15 inches in length) is quickly removed from the smaller combo setup and transferred to the rugged setup with the 50 pound test and 80 pound steel leader. The rod is inserted into a hole in the stern of the kayak and Chuck or another angler hops in and begins the long journey 200 yards to 1/2 mile off shore (Ryan is still too young for this part of the journey, so he continues to focus on the Bluefish close to shore).

Chuck with a 160lb MonsterOnce the angler and kayak are 200 yards off shore the search for the dark, roaming schools of Menhaden begins. It is within these schools that the sharks will be found. Scanning the horizon, the angler can generally see the shallow running Menhaden a great distance away. The Menhaden generally run parallel to the shore, so intercepting them with the trolled snapper Bluefish is rather easy.

Once the line is in position, it is a matter of making small circles to keep the snapper Bluefish swimming near the surface. The angler is in approximately 60 feet of water, but the sharks tend to swim only within the top 10 feet of the water column.

During this waiting period things can be a little frightening as an occasional 7 to 12 foot shadow will pass beneath the kayak indicating a large shark chasing far swimming Menhaden. Yet, by the time the Menhaden have reached the kayak the snapper Bluefish has been eaten and the fight is on. Shark Being Released...with Many Would-Be Swimmers Watching OnIt is at this point that adrenaline takes over and any prior fright is quickly forgotten.

It is also at this point that balance, control and sheer willpower take precedence. The angler quickly turns towards shore and begins a long, tiresome tug of war with a creature much more adept at life in the ocean. Yet, if luck, skill and the gear all hold out a large shark is brought in to shore for pictures and bewildered viewing by fellow vacationers.....some who have been swimming despite the shark warnings.

Kevin Schwenk with a Nice Little SpinnerAfter a few pictures the shark is turned towards the ocean and is let free to swim back to his environment. After viewing the sharks, many amazed swimmers often say that they are done swimming and are ready to retire to town to enjoy some dryer forms of entertainment.

In addition to catching sharks, anglers can expect the unexpected. Often an angler will bring back any number of species of fish as shown by the following list:

  • King or Spanish Mackerel
  • Stingray
  • Pompano
  • Triple Tail (a rare catch)
  • Golfstop Sail Catfish
  • Sea Trout
  • Drum
  • Whiting

Other Interesting Items Along the Coast
In addition to shark and Bluefish fishing, the shores of South Carolina offer some pretty amazing treasure hunting. Fossilized teeth, bones and other assorted "parts" are often found by simply walking the edge of the surf. From million year old Mastodon inner ears to extinct Megalodon teeth to thousands of Sandshark, Tiger Shark and other shark teeth, a walk along the beach is an amazing lesson in zoology and marine biology. Fossilized plants wash ashore as well as a host of fossilized fish and invertebrates.

So, the next time you're heading out to the links with your trusty "9" iron, be sure to leave some time for an adrenaline filled float in the kayak.....if that type of fishing is up your alley!

Anglers at Sunset on Myrtle Beach

 

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