(reprint from article in January/February issue of GAFF Magazine)
by Capt. Ron Gauthier
The news is out! Mako sharks have been spotted eating jacks and tuna on the deep wrecks and springs off our Gulf coast.
Running offshore 50- to 60-miles requires careful planning. The weather must be right for an enjoyable trip and all of the necessary supplies must be accounted for, including ice, drinks, food, bait, chum, and the right tackle. It's also very important to make sure you leave a detailed float plan with someone you can count on.
We're outa here
It's 6:00 am and we've finished loading the boat. We stop at the bait shop for BLT's and pick up the rest of our live bait before heading out. The weatherman is calling for 5-10 knots out of the northeast... hope he is right this time. The anticipation is running high, mile after mile to our destination - talking about the makos Marty and BJ caught just a few days before. Marty said his fish leaped out of the water over seven times and BJ's shark ate two baits, and they fought the fish on two rods!
We finally reach our spot and anchor a little up current from the spring, so we can fish for snapper and amberjack while we wait for the arrival of the fearsome mako shark. The first thing we do is put out a chum bag, then start to make our burley, consisting of cut-up fish, oil and water in a five gallon bucket. Really oily fish work best, like bonito, mullet, and jacks. Chop them into small pieces and add them to the bucket of burley, too. Get your chum slick going and keep it going, adding a cup of the chum mixture into the ocean every few minutes.
Next, we start fishing - knowing the commotion will help bring in a shark. Matt is already hooked up with an amberjack as I prepare the shark rods - Shimano 50's with 80-pound Blue Diamond on stand-up Crowder 50-pound-class rods. We tie a Bimini twist to a 150-pound wind-on leader, and then fasten a 15-foot, 500-pound cable and a 14/0 hook. We tie a balloon above the leader and put a nice piece of bait on the hook, float it out behind the boat keeping the second rod ready as a pitch bait. The bait should not have bones or scales that could hinder the hook set.
A few hours later the chum slick is looking beautiful and flowing out of sight. Matt and Tommy are getting a workout catching and releasing amberjacks one after another, and I am still chumming away. The wind has turned a little more out of the southeast and has pulled us off the spring, so the snapper bite is a little slow, but we came out to catch a mako and decide to stay there on hook till he shows up. Never ever give up. Matt's next bait stops on the way down, and then starts to go out. The drag starts screaming and we all look up - maybe the Blackfin tuna have found us. After a couple of laps around the boat we see color in the water, but it doesn't look like a tuna - more like a shark. The fish breaks the surface and I reach for the gaff - it's a real nice cobia that came in from the chum slick. We gaff the 50-pound fish and ice him down for the sushi man.
Time for teeth
We know the slick is working and we continue to chum and fish. Matt is on another large jack that is almost to the boat, it's a huge jack crevelle and he lets it swim around, thrashing in the water. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, this huge jagged-toothed mouth inhales the back half of the jack, cutting it off effortlessly. Everyone yells, "SHARK!" Blood fills the water as he swims around looking for the other half. I reel my bait back to the boat right in front of the shark and he inhales it, but he won't swim away from the boat. He swims to the back of the boat as I run to the front. The line goes tight, then starts screaming out away from us. "FISH ON!"
There is a float already on the anchor line and we pitch it over, leaving the anchor to pursue the shark. At first he runs away from the anchor line, pulling us 100-yards away before turning back towards the spring. I apply a little more pressure and he turns away again. Fighting off the front of the boat, I am anticipating his next move - a 15- to 20-foot leap into the air, but he stays down, pulling like a turbo-charged Porsche instead. After an hour-long fight, we see the beautiful blue color and the big fish makes it to the boat. Matt and Tommy are on the gaffs and they secure the mako next to the boat while I attach a tail rope. When handling large sharks, be extremely careful, one wrong move can change the day, or your life, drastically.
We pull the shark into the boat, but before we can get him on the floor, he shreds the bolster with one bite. We then put him into a giant fish bag and ice him for the journey home. Makos are fantastic table fare and the jaws make for a very impressive trophy - there will be nothing wasted.
We hose the boat off and head back to the spring to get our anchor; the shark pulled us more than a mile away.
There are numerous wrecks and springs in the Gulf of Mexico that are visited by makos in February and March. The spring we fished was in 150-feet of water and the spring hole dropped to over 450-feet. These ancient sink holes used to flow fresh water, but research shows they are no longer active.
Capt. Ron Gauthier is the host of Captain Ron's Ocean Explorer, and has a knack for catching giant fish and making the undersea world fascinating and fun. Check out www.ocean-explorer.com for more information and show times.