Now that winter is upon us it is definitely time to reflect on the season that has past. In all honesty I thought I had a shocker of a season due to failing to catch many of my favourite species (Kingfish and Jewfish) but realised this was occurred because of my new target, Bull Sharks. There are many times in rivers or on the beach that we have been completely blown away by the power of a fish only to be cut off within 30 seconds. This is usually the sign that a shark has made its way to your bait.
All you can do is hold on and slowly increase the drag and pray! It is because of many of these mystery fish that Kevin and I began to target Bull sharks. Why Bull sharks? I think it is just the cool factor of catching the apex predator in the rivers. I see them as the ultimate challenge that is achievable in our backyards in suburban Sydney. Bull sharks have 600lb of bite force with razor sharp teeth, have sandpaper for skin, and fight on the bottom with potential snags and rocks? It is essentially fighting a potential 200kg of fish with every possible problem you can encounter in fishing.
Through many failed attempts, and researching from many sources, we slowly learnt the methods that helped us crack the code. The major factors that we attribute to our success are location, tackle, teamwork, and bait. When these come together sharks will not be far behind. Generally, to give you a little outline in what goes on in your average shark fishing session from land in Sydney, the first item on the agenda is getting bait. I could talk all day on bait choice, but generally freshwater eel is the number one choice. It is often treated as an unwanted bycatch, but to us it is gold. Once the bait is procured, we will get to the spot at sunset. We like to give ourselves ample sunlight to both set up and launch our baits. We then prepare our eel baits and jump into a kayak and paddle over where we think the sharks are and drop off the baits in the water. Some people call us insane and our families often try to deter us from doing this. The way we see it is it is no different to going for a kayak ride through the river. It is only when you have a chunk of eel on the kayak that you start to get the thoughts of what could be beneath you in your head. In fact ,we often play a joke on anyone who fishes with us for the first time. We tell them that they need to do the bait drop as a rite of initiation. To this day not one person has been brave enough to do the bait drop for us.
Once we are back on shore, we organise all our equipment, our lights, de-hookers, rope (for landing the shark), gimbal and harnesses; we place them where it's easy for us to get to. This helps us avoid fumbling around and stressing out when a shark suddenly takes the bait. Next we simply sit and wait. We have had some sessions where my Kayak hits the sand after dropping off the bait and we are on to a Bull; and others where it is 5 hours later and we are contemplating calling it a night. However so far, no bait has come back without being at least bitten by a shark. This is because they are out there in big numbers during summer. When the Shark finally takes the bait the fight is amazing! I will never forget the first one Kevin hooked whilst using a beach rod and spin reel. We both have never felt so powerless in a fight. The shark controlled the fight for the entire 40 minutes.
Now, armed with bigger, stronger, and more appropriate game gear, we are definitely more formidable fishermen. The average fight lasts for about 20 minutes with the longest being 40 minutes so far. After the shark is landed we have the very difficult task of getting the hooks out and sending it on it’s way back to the depths. This is the most difficult and risky part of shark fishing and was frightening for the first shark. The moment my first shark hit the sand i rushed to it like a big macho man ready to take the hooks out and send it on its way! Instead I froze. All those times i watched the “Jaws” movies at night were coming back to me. After finally drinking some cement and hardening up, the hooks were removed and the shark was released without harm. My heart was racing as i nervously swam the fish for the first time. It was a huge process to learn to catch these monsters of the deep, but a challenge that i believe has made me a better fisherman. I cannot explain to you how many unsuccessful trips occurred and how many issues were faced, but at the end of the day that is what drives our team as fishermen. We are proud of the fact that we researched how, when and where to target this species, it started as a simple idea and evolved into a reality through persistence and hard work by Kevin & myself.