Shark Fishing

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Shark Fishing

This is the first in a series of five articles about shark fishing written by local shark angler Rupert Drury who landed the first ever Shark caught at Whitby.

These articles will give an insight into how to successfully target sharks off the north east coast of England. Although Rupert specifically talks about the north east in his articles the information you will find here could easily be transferred to any part of the UK coastline where sharks may frequent.

This, Rupert’s first article gives a brief insight into north east shark fishing. The second article looks at the tackle you will need to go shark fishing at Whitby or from other ports on the north east coast.

The next article will discuss how to organise a sharking trip and what baits etc you might need. The fourth in this series of shark fishing articles will look at techniques used and give some information on where sharks could possibly be located off the north east coast.

Rupert’s final article will look at what could be possible in the future. With a thresher shark recently being landed by commercial fishermen at Filey the potential for catching huge sharks off our coastline is there. Please select the other Shark Fishing articles from the menu to your right or from the links at the bottom of this page.

Shark Fishing Links

Shark Fishing In The North East Of England

north east shark fishing rupert druryTheres something incredibly exciting about fishing for something that grows seriously big! A fish that could all but pull you off your feet.

Add a sense of danger, a touch of the unknown and rows of very sharp teeth and you have a flavour of what shark fishing in the North East might taste like! Unfortunately, the recipe for sharking success is far from straightforward.

Those interested might buy the very best of ingredients, combine a large amount of effort with a good chunk of time, but without a fair measure of luck, this sharking experience can still leave you feeling very empty. Only the very keenest retain the hunger to persevere.

So before you embark on a North East shark mission, its important to take a reality check first. The chances are it will take a good few trips before you even see a shark, let alone hook or catch one, but trust me, once youve caught one, youll be able to think of nothing else for weeks.

Brace yourself now, as this game can simultaneously mess up both your head and your wallet big time!

shark fishing at WhitbyBefore I go into detail on tackle and tactics, let me make it quite clear that I dont consider that Im a sharking expert so I was quite flattered to be asked by Glenn to help with this part of the website.

Granted, I was very fortunate to land the first shark from Whitby in August 2005 (and at my first attempt!), since which time I have witnessed other sharks caught by John, my sharking partner in crime.

Ive also missed hook ups and so although I can tell you how I go about it and my thought processes, let me say here and now, that recreational sharking in the North Sea remains very much unchartered territory and I, as much as anyone else, have plenty more to learn yet.

The exiting thing is, using the tackle and techniques Ill be covering, there is no doubt in my mind that there are many more surprises for us all to experience out there in the North Sea.

a Shark Fishing Tayler In UseThis element of the unknown leads me neatly onto why, when I go on a North Sea sharking mission, I try to go prepared.

Certainly, I would rather be over-gunned than under-gunned on the tackle front. The first porbeagle I caught in 2005 ripped nearly 300 yards of line off in its initial run.

That fish very nearly spooled me and it wasnt as if I wasnt trying to stop it. It was like being fastened to the back of runaway Landrover!! Granted, the fights from the other porbeagle I have witnessed have been completely different and frankly rather disappointing, but until we are in a position to better gauge the typical stamp of shark we are likely to encounter, I would strongly advise you only to use tackle thats right up to the task in hand.

When opportunities to hook up with a shark appear few and far between, wasted opportunities through tackle failure will do you, nor the shark, any favours at all.

Shark Fishing Tackle

The sharking tackle I use is 50lb class. Without the use of a fighting chair, this is, in my opinion, about as much as can be sensibly used whilst standing.

A long 80lb class rod cant be maintained in its fighting curve for any length of time, unless you are fully harnessed up and even then only the fittest and strongest of us could maintain this full pressure for any length of time.

At the end of the day, dont forget the rod acts as a cushion it needs to bend and I happen to think that 50lb class gear offers the compromise of strength and cushion for this type of fishing, particularly for those fishing braid.

So let me take you through the tackle I use-

Rods For Shark Fishing

All the porbeagle shark that I have encountered have all run beneath the boat, particularly towards the end of the fight. I currently use Penn 76 Formula 24kg rods (50lb class in our money) as I feel that this extra length could offer some advantage over shorter (5-6) stand up style rods, in steering line away from the hazards on the underside of the boat.

These Penn rods have quite a flexible tip, but are really quite powerful when fully bent.

There are plenty of other similar rods on the market from other manufacturers I simply chose Penn, not just because they are a reputable make in the big fish world, but as I was buying a set of four, more importantly, they happened to be on special offer!

The Best Reels

My advice is to think of shark reels as a line store, not a big winch.

When you hook a shark, you pump the rod and use the reel only to take in the slack line the pump of the rod has created.

Its pretty much the opposite of what we do when boat fishing for cod, i.e. rod held up static and winch slowly!

Youre looking for a reel to store plenty of line, but most importantly release it smoothly when needed.

A snatching drag is no good when fishing for a quarry that can strip line like rattle. Whilst the new generation star drags are much smoother than of old, its still really lever drags every time for this game.

(Small point when youve finished for the day, always disengage the lever drag to free spool, otherwise youll damage the drag). My personal choice here is Shimano Tiagra 50w.

They have a really smooth drag, a nice big grippy handle and a capacity of 850 yards of 50lb mono.

I like to think this sort of capacity gives me all the line I am ever likely to need, plus a little bit more just in case! My Shimano Tiagras are 2-speed and I am looking forward one day to dropping one down into low box, when I hook that fish so big, I struggle to pump the rod! To be realistic though, and particularly if youre working to a budget, single speed lever drags will be fine, providing they have a smooth drag and at least 500 yards of line capacity.

Braid Or Mono Line For Shark Fishing ?

Most of the sharking books Ive read recommend the use of mono line, but I have taken a conscious decision not to use this as a main line, for reasons Ill come onto later.

All my shark reels are loaded with a braid topshot of 300 yards of 100lb Berkley Fireline XDS. At this breaking strain, its quite a thick braid and of all the braids Ive used, it seems one of the most abrasion resistant.

(N.B. For some reason, 100lb XDS is getting hard to get now. My second choice would probably be Power Pro).

Whilst the 100lb. braid might seem overkill on 50lb. class tackle, I consider the mainline to be potentially one of the weakest links in the chain.

For the present time at least, Im after landing hooked fish, not chasing IGFA line class records, so for me anyway, 100lb. braid it is.

I also feel the non-stretch properties of braid help in setting a big hook at range (baits fished at up to 80 yards) and the use of floating braid helps when lifting the line when ‘mending the line up to the float.

Most mono sinks and whilst this might assist in keeping the line away from all the seagulls that gather in the chum trail, the sinking of the line up to the shark float can cause other problems in itself.

If the mono line sinks underwater, there is a real possibility of a shark picking up the bait, moving uptide and tangling with the submerged mono. When the angler tightens up to the shark, the mono then parts.

Clearly, the big Shimano reels I use hold more line than 300 yards of braid, so beneath this is cheaper 60lb mono knotted to the braid with a uni-knot to fill the reel to capacity.

The likelihood is that 95% of the shark I hook will be landed within the 300 yard braid topshot. The mono backing is there as insurance, just in case I connect with that fish of a lifetime.

Rubbing Leader

A rubbing leader is vital for two reasons. Firstly, sharks can roll up and twist the mainline around them.

Even 100lb braid is likely to chaff and part with this sort of punishment, so a 15 length of mono of 250400lb breaking strain is attached to the end of the mainline.

The second reason for the rubbing leader is that it offers protection against chaffing on the underside of the boat. As I mentioned earlier, be very aware of this hazard, particularly towards the end of the fight.

I have recently learned how to make a braided wind-on leader. I wont go into the detail here, but a peep at will show you how its done.

The wind on leader can then be wound onto the reel, which makes the final stages of landing a big fish so much easier.

Whilst on this subject, the rubbing leader can be grabbed to lead a fish to the boat side. This should only be done in a gloved hand and subject to the following cautionary tale.

On the 9th July 2002, Captain Billy Verbabanas, the skipper of USA Delaware based REEL-ISTIC was landing a particularly aggressive mako shark estimated at 400lbs. He took a wrap of leader around his hand in an attempt to pull it within range.

In a last minute lunge, the shark pulled him from the boat and he disappeared beneath the waves. When he surfaced, the crew tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail as he had drowned.

NEVER, NEVER, wrap leader or any line round your hand in this situation.

Shark Fishing Traces

The wire traces I use are approximately 4 long. They only act as a biting trace against the sharks sharp teeth and providing you fish them with a 15 rubbing leader, then you have a fully abrasion resistant setup.

In the old days, I gather people used much longer wire traces but no rubbing leader, but I think the modern setup is much better to handle.

The wire I use is 49 strand stainless steel, of either 250 lb or 480 breaking strain. Even at 480 lbs. the wire is only 1.6mm in diameter. I dont like plastic coated wire its not as supple as the wire I use and tends to kink badly

When making up the traces I use Heavy Duty double barrel crimps (actually, I use two at each of the trace, just for good measure).

You must be careful to select the correct diameter of crimp to match the diameter of the wire and close the crimp using proper crimping pliers.

Crimps are compressed in their centre section, leaving the ends untouched. If you close all the crimp from end to end you can damage the line or wire.

The double barrel crimps I use are like a number 8.

The correct way to close them is to crimp them from top to bottom. I sleeve all my traces and rubbing leaders with crimp covers.

It makes for a really neat finish and avoids any sharp strands of wire sticking out.

Big Hooks For Catching Sharks

Now heres a debate in the making! Stainless or bronzed? Let us consider the pros and cons. Stainless shark hooks tend to be much more expensive and probably, for our type of fishing, over-engineered.

They dont readily rust, so any hook that has to left in a shark, will be there for some time before it rots or drops out.

Bronzed hooks on the other hand are much cheaper and should rust away far more readily than a stainless. Whether in rusting, this causes any damage to the shark Im not in a position to say, so thats a debate Ill leave for the experts.

For me anyway, as I like a selection of wire traces and need to buy quite a number of hooks, it is Mustad OShaunessy bronze hooks ref: 3406.

Size wise, I mostly use size 10/0 and 12/0 for deadbaits, but dont forget to put a sharpening stone over the points of these hooks before use. For livebaits, I use Maruto 12/0 hooks ref: 1230NSR.

These are a stumpy short shank hook, which come razor sharp out of the packet and are useful when bridle rigging. Providing I wash my gear off, I usually manage several outings with the same hook and just clean them up with a fine wire wool before re-use.

If you want, you can always make the wire trace that little bit longer, allowing you to chop off the hook and re-crimp another one on.


My first shark was taken on a float made from a fizzy pop bottle. You can also use balloons, bits of cork or even a fancy American float called a Snapfloat.

This is the type that I now use, the reason being that they snap shut when the line goes tight and slide right to the bottom of the rubbing leader this allows you to wind the rubbing leader onto the reel.

While Snapfloats do offer certain advantages, they can trip accidentally and it takes a little patience and experience to get the best of them. They dont come cheap either.

To sink the bait under the float youll need 6 16 oz of lead depending on the state of the tide.

I clip these leads onto the swivel that joins the rubbing leader and wire trace using a small freshwater type link clip.

You must place this clip on the rubbing leader end of the swivel, otherwise the wire end of the swivel cannot turn. If you hook a shark, the clip bends or breaks and the lead drops off.

This puts you in direct contact with the fish as opposed to having up to a 1lb of lead swinging round just above its head.

Swivels and Clips

I use the largest Momois Hi-Catch ball bearing swivels and escape proof snaps tested at 500 lbs. These are reputed to be the worlds strongest snap/swivel combination. Sampo ball bearing products are also very good.

Whilst it is unlikely for a big ordinary swivel to fail, Ive had different types of snap clip fail on me in the past when doing other types of fishing, so I tend to go a bit OTT on this part of the set up, as again, I consider this to be a potential weak link area.

Its important to incorporate a decent swivel in the setup, if only to prevent line twist from a bait spinning in the tide and for this reason I only use ball bearing swivels.

An alternative to clips, is to use small stainless shackles to join the swivels on wire to rubbing leader and these will also give you a bombproof connection.

Above : Rich Ward The Shy Torque Skipper With Another Happy Angler And A Whitby Shark

Other items of tackle As well as spare floats, weights and traces, my bag also contains other vital bits of kit;

  • Safety ropes – for clipping to the rods/reels, so they dont go overboard.
  • Velcro wraps – to secure the rods onto the boats stern rail.
  • Wire cutters.
  • Pliers.
  • Large stainless steel ‘T bar disgorger (Thanks for this Dave!).
  • Onion type sacks or perforated sealable buckets.
  • Rope.
  • Chum (rubby dubby) masher.
  • Mackerel feathers (Easy to forget in the excitement).
  • Big game type butt (thigh) pad.
  • Kidney harness.
  • Tape measure.
  • Digital camera and or video camera.

Its great to see some of our local tackle shops starting to stock sharking tackle, but before you rush out to the shops, you should be aware that some Whitby boats have now started to carry their own sharking tackle and I know that Rich Ward is nicely geared up with several Shimano outfits aboard his boat; Shy Torque.

Shark Fishing – Organising The Day

Before moving onto baits and tactics, its perhaps worth touching on how I like to organise the day when sharking.

Im now in my third year of this, with successful missions recorded in 2005 and 2006. This year, however, to date in October 2007, not only have we blanked, but I am not aware of any porbeagle being caught on rod and line from the North East, despite there being a number of sightings.

You are fishing for what is in all likelihood a pretty scarce resource and certainly at times, sharking in these parts, can feel very much like the classic needle in a haystack scenario.

shark fishing baits

Personally, I share the majority of my sharking trips with only one other angler (John) and we have an agreement that we will take it in turns, as and when a run occurs. Further, weve agreed that a turn consists of a solid hook-up and a shark on for at least 5 minutes.

If it drops off after this time, we consider weve had our turn and its put down to bad luck. If the fish landed is a tope, (not that its happened to us yet) then weve already agreed that doesnt count as a turn either!

Of course its not for me to tell others how to run their own trips, but if there are too many anglers on board on a shark mission, the odds of each individual connecting with a shark become increasingly dilute.

At the end of the day, how you choose to run things will most likely be budget led, but regardless of whether there are two or more of you in the party, I would suggest you sort out your own rules and an amicable pecking order well in advance.

Shark Fishing Chum (rubby dubby)

Ok, so that tackle and the boat rules sorted what happens next? First stop is to catch the bait. From Whitby, this is normally a scoot out to the bell buoy but how often does Murphys Law kick in? Should be no problem with mackerel on Friday, Rupe, its hooching with them – Youve guessed it; you cant find them on the day! Anyway, before you even think about sharking you need mackerel and plenty of them.

We get through 3 fish boxes full on a days sharking. Of these, only a handful of the freshest are used for hookbait, the rest are smashed up for chum.

Once youre fishing, youre aiming for the chum trail to provide a long, unbroken trail of scent and small particles.

On a calm sea, the oils from the chum will flatten the sea further and you can easily observe the trail snaking its way towards the horizon.

Chum can be dispensed via sacks or perforated buckets, if anything, the latter are probably easier and with sealed lids, theyre also gull proof!

I have heard of all sorts of concoctions going into chum and its not for me to discourage experimentation! All I have ever used is a mixture of oily fish, bran and fish oil.

If we catch any billet or suchlike as we feather for mackerel, then they go in the mix too, but as they contain very little oil, I dont think they are much good as chum on their own.

Catching sufficient baitfish, smashing them up, making the mix and replenishing the chum dispensers throughout the day requires a full team effort.

Im a firm believer in working as hard as I can on this front, as Im quite sure the better your chum trail, the better the chances of success are.

Shark Fishing Bait

Bait My deadbait comprises of a whole fresh mackerel threaded via a long stainless bait needle onto the wire trace.

The trace wire is hidden within the bait itself and exits by the tail root. I chop the tail fin off to help prevent the bait spinning.

The finished bait ends up with the hook point and bend coming out of the top of the bait just behind the head and the bait is fished upside down (head down) in the water.

Some people fish a double bait, but personally Im happy with one mackerel providing its a decent sized one.

Hook baits should be as fresh as possible and I would rather fish a freshly caught coalfish or codling on the hook than a sun baked mackerel, even if it was caught earlier in the day.

Methods Utilised To Catch Sharks

My basic technique comprises of fishing four rods. Either all four are float fished, or three are set up with floats and one fished under the boat on a shortish line, with a lead but no float.

I wouldnt recommend using any more than four rods at once and only then would I use four, if there are four men on the boat, because if we get a run, I want the other rods wound in out of harms way as soon as possible.

What baits to use to catch sharks ? Shark Fishing Methods and techniques

I have taken it that the drags on the reels have already been set so that when the lever is in strike position, the reel gives line smoothly when the rods in its battle curve.

If in doubt, go for a slightly lighter setting, rather than one too heavy. The best way to do this is beforehand, on dry land, when you can tie onto something solid and walk backwards.

If you can do this in private, it avoids much embarrassment Caught anything yet, Dad?

The float fished rods are set at 10 yards, 20 yards and 30 yards depth at typically 20, 40 and 60 yards range behind the boat, with the shallowest fished bait being closest to the boat.

A fourth float fished rod could be set to fish at 80 yards. Once the baits are out, set the lever drag so that it just holds the baits in position and engage the ratchet on the reel.

Dont forget to put the safety line on, unless youre happy to risk £500 of tackle leaping overboard.

You should be in no doubt when you get a run, but the chances are you wont see the float submerge. The first thing youll know is that the ratchet on the reel is sounding.

This might vary from a steady click, click, to a full blown screech. Pick the rod up, take the ratchet off, put the reel in free spool (but be prepared to thumb the spool) and briefly take stock.

If line is peeling steadily off the reel, I wouldnt mess about for fear of a dropped run. Point the rod tip near the direction of travel, but not a direct line, so as to preserve a small amount of cushion and then slide the lever drag forward to the strike position.

The line will pull tight and when it does, only then lift the rod. With luck the hook will now be set and the shark on!

If the fish has picked the bait up and run towards you, things are potentially trickier.

In this instance, I would wind up the slack with the rod held flat as quickly as possible until I had caught up with the fish and the line was tight, then lift the rod as before.

Once you have a hook up, get the other rods wound in and out of the way as soon as possible.

If the shark runs hard, let it, but keep an eye on the line left on the reel.

The only likely cause for concern is the anchor rope. I have assumed that the skipper has anchored clear of any crab pot markers! If there are concerns over the anchor rope, it can be buoyed off, thrown overboard and collected later.

We did this on my first shark and after 40 minutes, wed drifted hundreds of yards from it. Unlike the first shark I caught, Ive seen other porbeagle sharks come to the boat pretty quickly and apart from the usual antics under the boat; I would describe the fight as pretty ordinary.

Lift a fish aboard that has been docile in the water and be prepared for fireworks on the deck though!

While the fish is being played, the other angler(s)/crew onboard should prepare everything.

A clear and tidy deck space, unhooking equipment and pliers ready, tape measure and tags prepared, Camera on! Small porgies can be lifted aboard quite easily, but bigger fish are better tailed if they have to come aboard, as it will take more than one man to lift it.

When its your first ever shark, it is an incredibly exciting moment when you finally get it aboard, but we owe it to the shark not to mess about at this stage. The shark should be unhooked, measured, (tagged) and photographed as quickly as possible.

If you cant safely unhook a shark, cut the wire as close to the hook as you can. By behaving responsibly at this crucial stage, and quickly and safely returning the sharks we catch, we will all be helping to safeguard the future of this sport for others as well as ourselves.

Where To Target Sharks In The North Sea ?

Location of shark – Gosh, where do I start? Ive done the needle in a haystack bit already!!! The first logical statement to make is that the shark must follow their food.

Thats OK as far as it goes, but for us, fodder fish can mean mackerel and herring. It could also mean cod, ling, pollack and coalfish.

In coastal areas, it could also include salmon and sea trout. These are the main species, but there are others that must be on the menu too.

The starting point must therefore be to fish where you are confident there are plenty of fodder fish potentially available.

Once youve chosen your mark, if youre using chum, I dont think you need to be right on the nail, but you need to be in the right general area, if that makes sense?

Its no secret that so far, all the shark caught from Whitby have come from an offshore mark called The Wall during the mid to late summer period.

Its very easy to act like sheep in this situation and fish the same place, in the same way and at the same time.

A trip to the Wall can only be undertaken on a good forecast and this usually, but not always, means a summer trip.

The Wall can fish for cod over winter so why not shark? We might just need to change our summer tactics and present baits near the seabed?

As in previous years, several porbeagle shark have been seen closer inshore at Whitby this year. The first sightings I heard of this year came in June on or around the 9 mile mark.

The thing is though, for every shark spotted; many, many more must swim past undetected.

I would be quite happy experimenting in a range of locations. Who knows, I might help discover an even better mark? More sharking effort over rough ground marks, close to wrecks or even well inshore, could all yield surprises and possibly for more months of the year than we imagine possible at the moment?

The future Of Shark Fishing In The North East lets all be prepared to experiment a bit.

All the Whitby shark caught so far have been caught whilst fishing at anchor.

This is an easy way to get a good long chum trail out, but bear in mind its also a relatively narrow chum trail. If you fish at anchor the wind can spread the chum oil on the surface and give you the impression that the slick is wider than it really is.

The other problem when anchoring is that when the tide picks up, the baits lift in the water. The chum will also take longer to sink, so only the surface depths are being fished effectively.

Drifting remains a popular method down South and in Ireland, but it could be that sharks are more prolific in these parts?

A drift with wind against tide or wind cross tide would offer a good long and wide chum trail as well as the chance of covering a lot of ground. Drifting with wind and tide together is like a boat floating down a river.

Its likely to be a waste of time, as the chum would just sink beneath the boat with no horizontal or distance coverage.

Its just too early to rule out drifting as a viable method of sharking in the North Sea.

Similarly, Im convinced we dont all need to chase out to the Wall for every shark mission.

In these early days of sharking in the North East, we need to be flexible and be prepared to experiment.

It would be fantastic to develop an inshore shark fishery over time, but it will require to a few of us to show commitment and be prepared to exchange catch data information or compare notes.

My closing thought is be prepared, but be open minded. Thus far, we have been focused on porbeagle fishing, but a thresher shark nudging a reputed 1,000lbs was netted inshore at Filey only earlier this summer.

This fish would have knocked the UK rod caught thresher shark record of 323lbs into a cocked hat! Clearly, we have the most amazing potential right on our doorstep so never mind the youre going to need a bigger boat stuff, I might even need to buy a bigger reel now!

To read More Please Click The Links Below

Shark Fishing Pictures Gallery

By | 2018-03-23T08:49:35+00:00 March 28th, 2013|Boat Fishing, Galleries|2 Comments

About the Author:

Rupert Drury, species specialist - I’m Yorkshire born and bred and live near Malton, North Yorkshire. Fishing wise, I’m a bit of an all rounder – a fanatical sea angler, as well as a keen coarse and game fisherman. The majority of my sea fishing is done from boats, both private and charter. I particularly enjoy targeting the larger species of sea fish, especially sharks. A few large species PB’s are Porbeagle 248lb (Whitby 2005), Skate 195lb (Firth of Lorne 2008), Conger 66lb (English Channel 2005), Tope 50lb. (Hornsea 2009).


  1. Rodney Goodship August 31, 2011 at 5:23 am - Reply

    My name is Rodney Goodship and for the last seven years I have been running fishing holidays in the Florida Keys during the summer we come back to the UK and live near Berwick.
    Talking to local skippers shark have been seen close inshore so this year I am organizing a trip if you are interested please get in touch.
    Cheers Rodney

  2. Lee March 26, 2015 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Thanks for the info very useful. im going to try for some shark this year they are not noted where I live anymore but I am sure there are some around just people don’t fish for them anymore

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