For the anglers who aren’t going after dinner and aren’t exactly riveted by the miniscule pull of a mangrove snapper, how about this: tarpon and sharks.
The two tend to run together, unfortunately because it’s the sharks that chase after hooked or released tarpon in hopes of an easy meal.
The Tampa Bay area is said to be a shark nursery, and legend has it if one were to get an overhead view of the bay on a sunny day with clear waters, you might gasp because of the sight of monster, stacked-up sharks.
Anyhow, here’s one way of catching both these beasts for the adventurous and sturdy: Get a conventional outfit (4/0 PENN Senators) with 50-pound monofilament line and a 120-pound test of coded cable and a 7/0 circle hook. Any oily bait will do, such as bonito, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish or even pinfish. Depending on the size of the bait, cut it in half or butterfly it and put it on the hook. Some anglers will use a stinger rig with butterflied baits.
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Set up around a pass on an outgoing tide — areas such as the mouth of Terra Ceia Bay or Bean Point work — in the late afternoon or evening, and get a chum line going. Of course a chum block is a must, and anglers can also drop chunks of bonito and such out of the boat.
Anglers can either put the bait under a float (balloons are popular) or drop the bait to the bottom. Tarpon will hit a dead bait on the bottom.
Bait such as ladyfish or Spanish mackerel can be snatched around passes or deeper grass flats around Anna Maria Sound. Try jigs, spoons or plugs.
If an angler were to hook into a shark more than about 9 feet, they might want to cut the cable to prevent dealing with a shark in the boat. Catch and release shark with extreme caution. If an angler were to keep around a 4-foot black tip — and they do make for good eating — they must kill the shark as soon as possible.
“I’m not looking for a big shark,” Capt. Rick Gross of the charter boat Fishy Business said. “I don’t want anything to do with a big shark. Over 9 feet, you can have him. They’re different than tarpon. The 120-pound cable I use is not gonna hold up to a big shark anyhow. I’m not looking to set a world record. I don’t want a big hammerhead shark, and he ain’t coming in the boat with me.”
Bring them in the boat, pounce on their back, and hold them down behind the head. Securing the head is essential to avoid losing fingers, or worse. Most anglers will either knife the shark between the eye or use a billy club to knock it out.
“The next thing I do is cut their head off,” Capt. Gross said. “But I’m almost 100 percent catch and release.”
The limits are two sharks per boat, or one shark per person, whichever is less.
Make sure to bleed a shark and stuff ice in its belly to preserve the meat and avoid an ammonia taste.