Summer Sharks In The Marsh
These toothy fish can provide some of Georgia's best inshore action.
Brooks Good has two passions, one is fishing and the other is teaching kids about the outdoors. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, Brooks started a career at the Georgia DNR as a fisheries biologist. Following more than a decade of service to the state, Brooks gave up that career to follow his passions. He began a business as a fishing guide and created Coastal Outdoor Adventures in 2008, which focuses on family trips and educating kids about the outdoors. And, since he has been fishing the area for most of his life, he knows the fishery well.
GON Editor Brad Gill and his daughter Rileigh joined me and my granddaughter Madison Gudger, of Dallas, for a day on the water with Brooks. Our target was sharks!
“The estuaries that wind through the marsh around St. Simons Island provide a wealth of life and great angling opportunities for kids and families,” said Brooks. “One of the most prolific species is sharks.”
Brooks runs kids camps during the spring and summer. These camps feature a variety of activities, some that focus on shark fishing, where the catching is easy, and the action is often fast.
Brooks said there are about 16 different species of sharks that roam the estuaries, and they range in size from about a foot to 4 feet and longer in length. His catch will often include bonnetheads, Atlantic sharpnose, finetooth, blacktips, spinner sharks, lemons and bulls. By far the most common are the bonnethead, Atlantic sharpnose and blacktip.
We set out from Hampton River Marina, Brooks’ base of operation, and headed down river for a short run. Brooks anchored the boat at the edge of the river channel near the mouth of a feeder creek.
“Sharks are constantly on the move,” said Brooks. “They will generally be in 16 to 20 feet of water near ledges and drop-offs. Get in a likely area along the channel, or where two creeks come together, and they will come by feeding on the tide cycle.”
As the boat settled into the current, Brooks showed the girls the tackle setup and baits of choice.
Tackle consisted of medium-sized spinning reels spooled with 15- to 20-lb. test monofilament and several rods set up with conventional reels rigged with 40-lb. test.
“Most novices use tackle that is way too heavy when fishing for sharks,” said Brooks. “You don’t need a marlin rod. The small- to medium-sized sharks are fairly easy to handle on much lighter tackle than you think.”
The terminal tackle consisted of a slip rig on both the spinning and level-wind outfits. The slip rig is a barrel swivel attached to the main line, a 3-oz. egg sinker on a leader of about 12 to 18 inches with a hook at the business end.
On the lighter setup, the leader is 50- to 60-lb. test mono, and the hook is a 1/0 kahle hook. The larger rig contains a leader of 125- to 150-lb. test and is terminated with a 5/0 or 7/0 circle hook. In both cases, a small knot is tied in the leader about 4 inches below the swivel. A small bead above and below the weight will limit the movement of the weight during the cast and help ensure accurate casts and less line tangles during the cast.
Brooks said that several types of bait are effective—dead shrimp and cut fish work well in addition to live bait if you have it handy. Brooks pulls the head and tail off shrimp to prevent line twist in the current. Bonnetheads, probably the most prolific shark in the area, love live menhaden, but they will also eat shrimp and crab.
“One of the most important things is to pay attention to current flow,” said Brooks. “You have to keep your bait on the bottom.”
The presence of current is an element of causing fish of all species to bite, and sharks are no exception. Whether the tide is coming in or going out, movement of the water is important. Brooks says to read the tides and react. When the tide is moving slower, move out deeper because it is easier to stay on the bottom in the slower current. As the tide gets heavier and the current speeds up, move in to depths of 15 feet or less. Brooks has a variety of locations at different depths staked out, and he moves around based on the speed of the current.
It didn’t take long to connect on our trip. Within a few minutes, both girls were reeling in small sharks on the spinning gear. They boated close to 20 sharks, including two good-sized ones, as well as a few croaker and whiting. Not bad for being on the water three hours. Luckily, the bigger sharks, one black tip of close to 5 feet, that put on quite an aerial display, hit on the bigger rigs. With just a little assistance, both girls landed the sharks on their own.
On a side note, we didn’t kill any of the sharks. Brooks will keep a fish if clients want them for food, but almost all are released back into the fishery. If you aren’t experienced at handling sharks, it can be tricky. Brooks has been doing it for years and takes control of the upper body as soon as the fish is alongside the boat. A better bet for the novice is to cut the leader and give up the hook rather than bringing the fish aboard.
“The hook will rust out pretty quickly,” said Brooks. “And the shark will do just fine.”
Brooks recommends that you cut the leader as close to the shark as possible to eliminate a dragging line that could tangle with objects on the bottom.
Overall, the trip was a blast. The girls had plenty of action and learned a lot in the process.
Take the time to check out Brooks’ website at coastaloutdooradventures.com. If you would like to schedule a fun family outing on the water, give Brooks a call on (912) 230-8957. He said the shark pattern will continue for another few months, but Brooks offers year-round guided fishing trips for a host of other saltwater species.
Also, look into his kids’ camps. There was a group coming in from a morning of shark fishing the day we went out, and they clearly were having a great time.
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