How to Land a Shark on a Boat: Read This First

September 29, 2021

Tired of catching the same old boring tuna, sunfish, and tarpon? Are you ready to tackle bigger, tougher fish with crazy leaps, unpredictable dives, and lightning-fast runs? 

If your answer is yes, deep-sea shark fishing is for you!

Landing sharks is as thrilling as it is dangerous. They’re among the most brutal species of fish an angler can catch. 

So, if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll first need to know how to land a shark on a boat safely. Read on to know more!  

How to Land a Shark on a Boat: A Step-by-Step Guide

Once you’ve caught and secured the shark on your line, follow these steps: 

Step 1: Exhaust the Shark

Before landing the shark, you want it to thoroughly tire itself out. Grip your rod tightly and let the shark tug and jump as much as it wants. Remember not to rush. Patience is key. 

Landing a shark may take up to an hour, so get ready for what’s quite possibly the longest game of tug-of-war in your life.

Throughout the battle, keep the boat moving. The goal here is to bring the shark to the side of your boat with the engines in gear and moving forward. 

When the shark attempts to lunge under the boat—or worse, jump outboard—the deckhand can keep the shark at a safe distance by driving ahead. 

Step 2: Reel It In

As the shark slows down, start reeling it close to your boat. You’re then faced with two options: do you want to keep the shark, or just take pictures and release it back to the wild? 

If you’re not planning to keep the shark, it’s best to leave it in the water. Take a few pictures, measure the fish, and snap the line. Don’t worry about the hook; it’ll rust and fall off by itself over time.  

If you plan on keeping the shark, ask one of your crew members to prepare a harpoon or a gaff, as well as a tail rope. 

Keep in mind that catching sharks isn’t a one-man job. You have to have at least two people on the boat to safely land the shark. Three, if possible, in case you’re catching a monster. Working as a team is crucial to effectively catch and land a shark.

Step 3: Land the Shark

landed shark

Depending on how large the shark is, there are several ways to land it. If it’s a small shark, lean down and carefully grasp the shark’s tail or pectoral fins. Then, quickly pull it towards your boat. 

If you’d rather not handle the shark, you can use a rubber-mesh landing net. Avoid those nasty nylon nets.

Needless to say, the larger the shark, the harder it is to land. For catch-and-release purposes, the best way to land a shark is by tying a rope around its tail and gently pulling it on your boat. You can also use a shark carrier or stretcher to scoop the shark out of the water.

If you plan on keeping the shark, use a flying gaff or harpoon rope. Those who don’t have prior experience with gaffs or harpoons shouldn’t attempt this technique. 

Again: sharks are deadly creatures. Even after it has exhausted itself with all the tugging and pulling, it won’t hesitate to strike in a life-or-death situation.

After the gaff or harpoon has been set out, tie a 13-to-15-foot rope around the shark’s tail to get the “motor” out of the way. If done right, this will temporarily immobilize the shark.

Once you’ve secured the shark, don’t pull it in your boat right away. You definitely don’t want a thrashing shark in your boat. Tie it to the side of your boat for up to an hour, upside down, before bringing it in.

Step 4: Remove the Hook

After you’ve landed the shark, remove the hook as soon as possible.  

It takes two people to remove the hook from a shark; one to keep the shark’s mouth open, and the other to unhook the shark. Slide the hook out the same way it went in using a pair of pliers. 

Don’t ever use your bare hands as sharks have sharp teeth and powerful jaws. You don’t want your hands anywhere near its mouth. One wrong move and it’s over.

If the hook is difficult to remove, cut it with a pair of bolt cutters. On the other hand, if it’s well and truly stuck, just leave it on. It’s not worth risking damage and accidental injuries, especially if the shark keeps fighting and thrashing. 

Step 5: Release the Shark

This step doesn’t apply if you’re planning to keep the shark. But in truth, there’s little reason to hunt sharks for keeps, unless you’re planning to hang your catch on your mantle or something similar. Plus, they don’t really have much meat to them, and preparing them is a pain.

Once you’ve landed the shark, lay it horizontally. The timer starts now. You have about 20 seconds before releasing the shark. Admire it, take photos of it, do what you must. Unless you can remove the hook from the shark in less than 10 seconds, keep it in. 

After, carry the shark and gently throw it back into the ocean, face first. For really large sharks, use a stretcher. 

That’s it. You’ve now set the shark free. But the adventure doesn’t end there. Take a deep breath, have a pint with your friends, and get ready to catch more.

Shark Fishing Safety Tips

shark in water

Shark fishing isn’t the easiest hobby in the world. Like most big fish, catching a shark involves a ton of risk. Keep yourself safe by following these tips:

  • Don’t fish for sharks alone. If you manage to hook a seven-footer, you’ll be glad for the extra helping hand.
  • Always attach a wire leader to your fishing line. This prevents the shark from chewing through the line when hooked. 
  • Remain as calm as possible when reeling and landing a shark. Utmost concentration is crucial.
  • First aid kits are your friends. The kit must include bandages, anti-inflammatory medicine, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
  • Don’t rush. Exercise extreme caution when handling the shark.
  • If possible, use a large boat when catching a shark. 
  • As soon as the shark is hooked, quickly remove the lines and rods out of the way so you can fight the shark without anything blocking you.
  • Use the right equipment. Shark fishing is an expensive hobby; prepare to spend at least $500 in total for your gear. 

FAQs

Is catching sharks legal in the US?

Yes, but only if certain conditions are met. To catch sharks in the US, you have to apply for a marine fishing license with the Department of Hunting and Wildlife.  

To make sure you aren’t fishing in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), keep yourself up to date with the country’s restricted national waters. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask your local fishing community about your concerns when fishing for sharks.

Also, certain types of sharks—Whale Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Great Whites, and several others—are illegal to catch and kill in the US and most of the world.

While the act of catching certain sharks isn’t illegal, “finning”—i.e., the act of cutting the fins off a shark and tossing the carcass back at sea—is punishable by law. Regardless of the species, never, under any circumstance, fin sharks.

Are sharks edible?

Yes, sharks are edible and legal for consumption in the United States. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), shark meat shouldn’t be eaten by children and pregnant women.

This is because sharks often contain mercury. Prolonged mercury exposure can lead to an array of health issues, including brain damage and neurological problems.

If you’re curious, a bite or two won’t hurt. Shark meat is said to taste like chicken. It has a chewy, meaty consistency and an extremely strong flavor. It’s often quite pungent, as well.

For many people, shark meat is a bit of an acquired taste. 

What’s the best gear for catching sharks?

shark hanging with boat

To catch an average-sized shark, you need an eight to ten-foot-long surf rod and spinning reel that can hold at least 300 yards of line.

Likewise, the reel should handle at least 25 pounds of drag.

As for the lines and leaders, we recommend using a 65 to 70-pound-test braided line tied to a three-foot-long 300-pound-test monofilament. To prevent the shark from biting through the line, tie it on a steel leader of at least six feet.

Finally, use circle hooks for quick and easy removal. Circle hooks cause minimal harm to sharks. 

What’s the best bait for sharks? 

According to long-time shark anglers, the best and most common bait for sharks is Bonita, ladyfish, king mackerel, and mullet.

Depending on the size you’re targeting, you can either chop the fish into small, bite-sized pieces or hook it whole. The bloodier the bait, the better. 

You can also use false albacore, tuna, menhaden, and sardines.

Wrapping Up

Catching and landing a shark takes patience and dedication, as well as proper knowledge and equipment. If you’re ready to experience an exhilarating catch, gear yourself up and be on the lookout for sharks. 

With enough luck, you’ll have a big one hooked in no time. Just remember to follow the above tips and keep yourself safe in the waters.

We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to land a shark on a boat.

Happy Hunting!

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