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:
- Black Tip
- Sand Shark
- 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!
Now, 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.
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 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).
Once 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. It 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.
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
- Triple Tail (a rare catch)
- Golfstop Sail Catfish
- Sea Trout
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!
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