Fishing for shark with the sound of the surf beating the beach or rocks around you is a rush. When a shark takes your bait, it’s a fantastic fight and is one that is not easily forgotten. Regardless if you’re looking to hook a hammerhead, blacktip or lemon head, we have a shark rig for surf fishing that’s proven itself again and again and can be even used to land hammerheads that are in excess of 12 feet in length. However, it should be noted that this surf fishing shark rig is best used for casting from a beach and to target sharks that roughly in the 6-foot range.
Surf Fishing Shark Bait
The two most important parts when it comes to shark fishing is the bait that you’re using and rig. Fresh bait should be your number one priority, if you don’t have decent bait, it doesn’t really matter how fancy your rig is. One of the best and easiest ways to secure fresh shark bait is to cosy up to a fishmonger or fish market, most will be more than happy to give away a bag of fish heads and carcases at no additional cost. You might also have some luck when fishing charter boats come in, a couple of beers might secure you the carcasses from the customer’s catches.
If you have enough time to do so, you can also catch your own. Taking a cast net with you while you walk along the shore can bag you a few mullet, but this is a skill in itself and can be a frustrating experience if you’re trying this in clear waters.
Lastly, if you’re really struggling to secure fresh bait, frozen will do at a pinch. Most tackle shops will have freezers full of a range of frozen baits. It’s also worth asking if they have any fresh baits available. My first choice is bluefish for fresh bait, followed closely by small jacks or ladyfish, but really whatever you can get your hands on should work reasonably well. Once we’ve got the bait sorted, it’s time to move onto the shark rigs that are best for surf fishing.
Whatever bait fish you use, it should be no bigger than the palm of your hand.
Shark Rigs for Surf Fishing
To make our shark rig we’re going to need a few items to start off with, most of these items can be bought from your local tackle store or from Amazon.
- Fishing Wire
- Monofilament line rated for between 80 and 100 pounds
- A red plastic bead
- A range of pyramid sinkers of between 4 and 8 ounces
- Nail clippers of scissors for trimming the mono line
- Swivels that are rated for at least 100 pounds
- A range of Mustard Demon Perfect Circle hooks, in sizes between 7/0 and 10/0
- A decent shark rod, we currently recommend the 12 foot Penn Prevail Heavy
You’re going to need a rod between 10 and 12 feet in order to get your bait way out into the surf.
Anything which is under 10 feet is going to hinder your ability to cast any great distance, which in turn will restrict your ability to catch a shark.
Setting The Shark Rig Up
A quick tip about the hook: In my experience, a hook which is 7/0 is the sweet spot for shark fishing, it’s perfectly sized for a shark that is 6 feet in length or under, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for larger sharks as well. I’ve successfully hooked sharks that are larger than 10 feet with 7/0 hook, so it definitely works for bigger mouths as well.
The first part of this rig starts with the wire that’s going to be attached to the hook. Measure out and cut a piece of the fishing wire which is 2 feet in length. Next, attach one of the swivels to the wire using a haywire twist. For more information on how to perform a haywire twist, please see the video below courtesy of the Saltwater Experience:
Once the swivel is firmly attached, we’re going to attach the fishing hook to the other end of the fishing wire using another haywire twist.
Congratulations, you’ve now successfully completed the leader part of the shark rig
In this second section of the rig set up, we’re going to create the section where the weight will be attached to. Portion out around 1 foot of 80 to 100-pound monofilament. On one end of the mono line, attach the other swivel using a uni knot. If you’d like to see how to tie a uni knot, please see the video below:
We now need to create a loop with the monofilament line to attach the weight too. To do so, take the free end of the mono line and tie it onto the same swivel eye, again us a uni knot to do so. This creates a loop of mono line with both ends tied onto the same swivel eye.
This technique is simple and avoids the need for expensive complicated mechanisms such as thimbles or crimps. You can also use this weight rig for any number of bottom rigs.
In order to attach the pyramid weight to the mono line setup, simply pinch the loops ends together and feed it through the weights eye, now feed the swivel through the loop that’s been fed through the weights eye and pull it tight.
This will firmly attach the weight to the swivel monofilament rig and is better than most other more complicated methods.
Measure out and cut another 4 feet of the 80 to 100-pound mono fishing line, this is going to act as the leader. Slide the sinker rigs swivel eye onto the leader, then slide on a plastic bead as well.
Next, attach the wire and hook portion of the rig to the leader section by tying it onto the swivel using a uni knot.
The beauty of this simple surf fishing shark rig is that the weight can freely slide along the line. This means that when a shark takes the bait, it won’t feel the tug of the weight. In turn, this leads to an increased success rate when it comes down to set the hook in the shark’s mouth.
The very last step in this rig set up is to attach the leader line to your main line. There’s a couple of ways to accomplish this, depending on what sort of line you’re using as your main. If your main line is monofilament, you can use a uni to uni knot to attach the two ends together. However, if your main line is braided, then you’ll want to use an FG knot to attach the two ends together. Once that’s done, you’ll all set to catch yourself some shark.
Landing a Shark
Now that you’ve got your shark fishing rig sorted, you’re ready to head to the surf and land that monster.
We have a couple of additional points to make to ensure you’re going to have a great time. Never ever fish for sharks alone, always fish with a buddy. This is for your safety as well as the wellbeing of the sharks.
Once you have the shark in the shallows, you’re going to need a friend to hold onto your rod while you approach the shark. If it’s a monster you might need to use a rope to gently pull the shark into shallower water. If it’s a smaller shark, you can just as easily grasp there pectoral or tails to pull it backwards, never handle them by their gills.
Always make sure the shark remains facing out to sea so that they can continue to breathe with the help of the waves coming in. Don’t pull them out of the water onto the harder sand, keep them as comfortable as you can but firmly in place so that you can safely remove the hook.
Always Release a Shark
The number one rule of shark fishing is that you should release the shark back into the water. You’ll have a little under two minutes to dehook the shark and get it back into the ocean. Larger sharks only have young every few years, to let one die for no reason is an absolute travesty and should be avoided at all costs.
Your priority, once you’ve landed the shark, is to get the hook out asap. So, make sure you’re prepared with the following items:
- Good quality wire cutters
- Good quality bolt cutters
You have ten seconds to remove the hook from the shark’s mouth using the dehooker. If after 10 seconds you still haven’t been able to remove the hook, use the wire cutters or bolt cutters to snap the hook in two and remove it that way. A shark’s life is worth far more than the cost of a shark hook.
All of this should have taken less than 20 seconds, so now you have 20 seconds to take any photo’s that you might want. Either take a group shot or leave the shark in the water and take your photos that way, don’t cause unnecessary stress to the shark. After 20 seconds you need to get shark back into the ocean.
Push the shark back into the surf face first, one it’s in deep enough water it should swim off by itself. It’s now time to pat yourself on the back and drink a beer in celebration.