Coastal Angler Magazine | August 2019 | Alabama / Pensacola Edition

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ALABAMA/PENSACOLA EDITION

FREE

Nearshore Destination + Kingfish Basics

SURF EXPO IN ORLANDO SEPT. 5-7 2019

PHOTO COURTESY OF DARYN ANDREW WHITE VOLUME 24 • ISSUE 293

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OUT OF PANAMA CITY

By Nick Carter

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he rising sun revealed unaddressed devastation as Capt. Randy Cnota backed his 22-foot Pathfinder down the ramp at Tyndall Airforce Base. Less than a year after Hurricane Michael rocked the Florida Panhandle, we launched near the heart of the destruction. Just east of Panama City and a short drive from the catastrophe that unfolded at Mexico Beach, this slice of the Panhandle is a community doggedly enduring the slow process of rebuilding. The bright boards of new framing show progress in neighborhoods of single-story homes. Blue-tarped roofs, shredded metal buildings and acres of tall pines snapped like so many twigs are reminders of just how far there is to go. At the docks, bare wood pilings and concrete footings are left from what was a bustling little marina before the storm surge. But the fish don’t care. And with an eager 8-year-old angler perched on the leaning post, Capt. Randy pointed us toward the open Gulf of Mexico. This was early July, during the Gulf red snapper season, and Capt. Randy’s numbers would take us a few miles out to some hard-bottom that promised big snapper. But first we had to catch bait, which was plentiful in the form of Spanish sardines balled up around the markers just outside the pass from St. Andrews Bay. The 8-year-old would have spent all day catching sardines on a Sabiki rig, but shortly we left the other boats jockeying for position at the marker. We had our bait, and Capt. Randy now had an idea of how the boy would handle his first fishing trip on the open ocean. The kid emitted enthusiasm, and it’s a good thing we didn’t make a several hour run. The waiting would have driven him mad. Bigger boats out of Panama City can comfortably take anglers dozens of miles out to deeper water, quick limits and huge fish, but this nearshore trip was more our speed. Less than 10 miles from the coast, and even inside the 9-mile state waters, there are wrecks, reefs and hard bottom in the 100-foot depths that offer plentiful bottomfish as well as shots at some big pelagics. Within minutes at our first drop, the boy was hooked up with a big bonito, and Capt. Randy was steering with one hand, while holding the butt of the rod with the other. The kid had a death grip on the handle and cranked with all his might. “You’re gonna have to come over here and make sure this rod doesn’t get pulled out!” Randy barked at me with both hands full. But I couldn’t. On the other side of the boat, I was pumping and grunting on what turned out to be a stud red snapper. Somehow, both

fish made it onto the deck, and Randy went right back to work feeding out a freelined sardine from the stern. “Where there’s Bonnies, there’s kings,” he called the shot. Shortly thereafter, he handed me a rod with line ripping off the spool. I came up tight on a good king mackerel. It was one of three kingfish we had on that morning, but it was the only one that made it in the boat. Through the morning, the fish kept us continuously busy. We caught more red snapper than we could keep track of as well as gag and red grouper. Capt. Randy was great with the kid. Seeing the big bottom rigs were too much for an 8-year-old, Randy tied up a chicken rig on a lighter rod, showed the boy how to bait and fish it and then set him loose. Although the beeliners we were hoping for didn’t show up, the boy had a field day hauling snapper and triggerfish off the bottom. He was particularly proud of an FWC-tagged trigger he caught. “Part of the fun is you never know what you’re going to catch when you’re out here,” said Randy as he unhooked a 2-foot-long smoothback pufferfish. The whole time out, we kept eyes peeled for weeds and surface activity that might belie the presence of mahi-mahi or cobia. In the week before our trip, Randy managed to put clients on a sailfish and a big blackfin tuna. Although we didn’t encounter these species, we did watch in awe as two 10-foot tiger sharks circled uncomfortably close to the boat. We went home with a cooler full of fish. But more importantly, while those meaty chunks of snapper sizzled in hot oil, the boy regaled his grandparents with stories of the trip. His first time was an experience he will never forget. Snapper seasons may be over along the Gulf Coast, but if you find yourself hankering for a good fishing trip that’s fun and easy, consider hiring a captain out of the Panama City area. Capt. Randy said fall brings better opportunities for sailfish and tuna nearshore, and with his smaller boat, he is also well equipped to fish inshore. The fall redfish and trout bite can be off the charts. These hurricane-battered communities remain in recovery, but the fish, beaches and visitor ammenities are still there. Go spend some time at Panama City and eastward along The Forgotten Coast. You’ll be glad you did, because the fishing is pretty spectacular. Capt. Randy Cnota is co-publisher of the Panama City/Forgotten Coast edition of Coastal Angler Magazine and owner of C-Note Charters. Check him out online at www.cnotecharters.com or call 229-834-7880.

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Urban Chrome In Grand Rapids, Michigan

Photo by Aaron Peterson Photography, LLC for Experience Grand Rapids

By Tom Werkman

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hy do people feel the need to head to remote destinations a million miles from nowhere to fish? Some of the best fishing opportunities exist right under our noses, and many times they are very close to major metropolitan areas. The Grand River is just such a place. Michigan’s largest river runs through the heart of the state’s second largest city, Grand Rapids, and offers great fishing through its 252-mile run from rural headwaters in Hillsdale County down to Lake Michigan. Downtown Grand Rapids: Home to more than 37 craft breweries, Grand Rapids is Beer City. But there is another side of Grand Rapids that few know about. It offers the

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lure of big-river fishing in an urban environment. The river through downtown Grand Rapids offers the angler a unique opportunity to fish for steelhead in swift rapids beneath the city’s skyscrapers. On an early leg of their run up out of Lake Michigan, these fish are strong and as hot as they come. From October through December and again during March and April, droves of steelhead run through downtown as they migrate through and hold up in the rapids. Some of the best steelhead fishing lies between Sixth Street Dam and the Fulton Street Bridge. It’s not uncommon to see people wading the river, fishing from the banks or in boats landing these chrome bullets. When fishing here, the angler can expect to only move a few times to get on fish. Once you have your spot, you don’t want to move very much as it can be crowded at times. If you’re not on a fish right away, be patient. These fish get backed up at the dam and constantly move around in search of the fish ladder to pass through and continue their migration up the river. Lowell To Ada Section: Just minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, a roughly 10-mile stretch of the Grand River between the towns of Lowell and Ada offers fishing that is a little more secluded. From late spring through early fall, this section offers smallmouth bass and northern pike. There is little public access here, and the angler can expect solitude and no-pressure fishing in a remote river setting just outside Grand Rapids. A typical trip involves floating in a drift boat or jet boat from Lowell to Ada, covering a lot of water while casting to the banks, river timber and rocks. Bald eagles, osprey, blue heron and deer are common sights on this piece of river. Rarely will the angler lay eyes on another boat or fisherman. On the Grand River, one can enjoy spectacular fishing and then enjoy a cold beer and everything else the city has to offer. Tom Werkman, and his son Max, are owner/guides at Werkman Outfitters, a guide service on the Grand River in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Contact them at tom@werkmanoutfitters.com or check them out at werkmanoutfitters.com.

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FISH & FISHING

FOCUSING OUR EFFORTS MARK SOSIN

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t may seem logical, but it’s not always right. My favorite example is George Westinghouse, the man who invented the air brake for oversized vehicles. Researchers relied on logical thinking and experimented continuously on using air to apply the brake. It didn’t work. Westinghouse took an opposite approach and used the air to hold the brake off the drum until the driver stepped on the brake pedal and released the air. The common approach to understanding fish behavior lies in applying human values with the assumption that a fish’s brain has the capacity to reason. Just because a particular lure looks good to us does not mean it’s a fish’s favorite, too. Few of us can boast even the slightest knowledge of the release that triggers a fish into striking or simply passing up an offering. And, we probably wouldn’t recognize it if we saw it. Repeated observations hold the key to helping us focus our efforts on techniques that have worked in the past. As an example, fish have an amazing alertness to movement. It can cause them to flee a situation or take advantage of it and feed. The same applies to underwater sound. Low frequency vibrations such as those that indicate a fish is in distress usually cause predators to investigate with the hope of finding food. The more natural a bait or lure appears to a fish, the greater the chance a strike will occur. When you can see your quarry

and observe hesitation of any type, assume that something in your offering appears unnatural. Fish may be curious, but they are seldom in the habit of wasting energy to pursue something needlessly. Many species have the ability to measure energy expended in chasing food against the value received. Because fish are creatures of habit, they tend to do the same things over and over. That’s why captains and guides boast the ability to find fish. The quarry may hold in one spot with uncanny precision day after day, month after month, and year after year. If that fish is caught or leaves for any reason, another will take its place. Those fish that work a tide follow the same pattern daily. Even offshore skippers understand reliable patterns that fish follow and troll the waters where their quarry should be. For some unknown reason, fish tend to hold at the same depth over a wide area. If another angler can tell you the depth where he found fish, you don’t need to know the precise spot. Keep in mind that water temperature can play a role. Each species has its upper and lower limits. As water temperature drops, fish tend to swim slower and chase an offering for shorter distances. Figuring out what motivates a fish to strike a bait or lure becomes a continuous challenge for leading anglers as well as the scientific community. The important thing to remember is that fish do not think like humans. Their basic approach is simple, yet it is not always easy to detect. The more you observe fish behavior and understand that it follows patterns and procedures established a long time ago, the more successful you are going to be.

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t first glance, Alphonso Jackson’s 2-pound, 1-ounce redbreast sunfish might not seem all that impressive. But when you consider the size of your average redbreast, this thing is a monster. Jackson was fishing the Lumber River in central North Carolina’s Scotland County on June 10 when he caught the fish on a cricket. It bested a 36-yearold North Carolina state record for the species by 5 ounces. The previous record, caught in 1983 by Ronald Stanley in Big Swamp in Bladen County, N.C. weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces. Jackson’s fish also outweighs the world record. The current IGFA all-tackle world record for the species has stood at 1-pound, 12-ounces since 1984. That fish came from Florida’s Suwannee River. Wikipedia claims the heaviest redbreast on record weighed 2.3 pounds (2 pounds, 4.8 ounces), but there’s no information as to where that weight came from or whether it was angler-caught. So, if Jackson bothers to complete all the paperwork properly, he would definitely be the new IGFA record holder. Jackson, 43, is an avid fisherman, a passion he attributes to his father Johnny Jacobs who taught him how to fish when he was a boy, and one that he has passed on to his children, ages 23, 18 and 17. They were with him the day he caught the massive readbreast. “We started fishing in a pond but weren’t having any luck, so I said to my kids, ‘Let’s go back to where I learned how to fish.’ And this is what we caught,” Jackson said. “I’d like to thank my daddy for teaching me how to catch fish and where to catch fish.” COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

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TIPS FROM A PRO

READ GRASS MATS FOR BIG BASS

BRANDON LESTER

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ate summer and early fall absolutely scream for a frog. With big bass holed up in thick vegetation, working a frog across grass mats can lead to some of the most explosive strikes in fishing. I always look forward to the frog pattern setting up around this time of year. This year should be especially sweet because of the reemergence of Alabama’s Lake Guntersville as one of the best bass fisheries in the nation. This Tennessee River impoundment is frog fishing heaven. Over the last decade the Guntersville bass fishery saw a bit of a decline. But the “Big G” has come back in a big way. Bassmaster ranked Guntersville the No. 2 fishery in the nation in this year’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” listings. It is fishing lights-out, with five-fish tournament sacks regularly approaching and surpassing 30 pounds. I just came off a top-10 finish in the June Elite Series event on Guntersville. Some fish came off frogs, but the best patterns I found were deep cranking and worms. You can bet the frog bite will ramp up soon, though. No matter where you fish, the key to topwater frog fishing is reading the grass. To really dial in a pattern, you need to observe what’s happening on the lake. At Guntersville, the two prominent grass types are hydrilla and milfoil. There are other types, but these are the two you will encounter

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most often. From the time the grass first tops out in the summer until the first frost of the fall, I will concentrate on milfoil. Milfoil creates a great canopy and is hollow underneath, so the bass can get through it to get to your frog. When the hydrilla is still green, it is so thick that a bass has trouble seeing your frog on top of the mat. With that said, later on in the fall when the hydrilla starts to turn brown and break up, it starts to get hollow underneath. That is the time to start targeting it more. Another key to frog fishing is to listen and watch for “active” grass. Bass school up in grass mats just like they do on ledges, points and humps, so it is important to find a mat that has activity in it. Listen for bluegill popping the mat or watch for shad to flicker. Those are signs that bass are not far away. Also, look for points, turns and indentions in the mat itself. Anything different will often hold bass. Rod selection is important for hauling bass out of matted grass. I throw a MHX-MB-874. This rod is 7’3” heavy power with plenty of backbone, but more importantly it has enough action in the tip to allow the fish to eat the bait. I use 50-pound Vicious braid and a 7:1:1 reel. Try a topwater frog on your next trip out, or better yet plan an excursion to Guntersville for the trip of a lifetime.

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Shore-Based Shark Fishing Permit & Education Available Online

The education and permit requirements also apply if you plan to fish from shore for any species of fish with tactics and tackle including: • fishing with a metal leader more than 4 feet long • Using a fighting belt/harness • Deploying bait by any means other than casting (kayaking for example) while using a hook that is 1.5 inches or larger at its widest inside distance OTHER REGULATION CHANGES:

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• Prohibit of chumming when fishing for any species from the beach. • Require immediate release of prohibited shark species when fishing from the shore and require anglers to cut the leader or hook to prevent delaying release of prohibited species. • Require that prohibited shark species remain in the water (when fishing from shore or from a vessel). • Require the use of non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hooks to target or harvest sharks when using live or dead natural bait (when fishing from shore and from a vessel). • Require the possession/use of a device capable of quickly cutting the leader or hook when targeting sharks (when fishing from shore or a vessel). These rules are intended to increase survival of released sharks, improve information-gathering from the fishery and address public safety concerns.

lorida’s new shark fishing regulations were enacted July 1, including a mandatory, no-cost, annual Shore-based Shark Fishing Permit and educational course for shore-based anglers and other requirements that apply to all shark fishing and fishing from the beach in general. The Shore-based Shark-Smart Fishing educational course and Shore-based Shark Fishing Permit are now available online. To take the educational course, which must be completed before getting the permit, visit MyFWC.com/SharkCourse. The permit is required for all shore-based shark anglers age 16 and older, including those 65 and older who are normally exempt from needing a fishing license. Those under 16 are required to take For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on the educational course unless they are fishing with an adult who already holds the permit. Persons under 16 are not required to get the “Recreational Regulations” and “Sharks.” permit.

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FLORIDA LOBSTER SEASON

Sheri Daye

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he beginning of Florida lobster season gets many divers more excited than kids at Christmas. Barely able to sleep, the divers nestle all snug in their beds, while visions of lobster dance in their heads. Whether locals or out-of-state visitors, many arrange their vacation plans around this special time, either during the two-day mini-season or the actual start of lobster season on Aug. 6. Mini season falls on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, while the regular season is Aug. 6 to March 31. Some will brave the two-day mini season, when tourists descend on the state, and some simply wait until Aug. 6 when things calm down. The most popular destination in Florida is The Keys, where shallow warm waters provide great breeding grounds and easy dives. However, the east coast from Miami to Jupiter and beyond can also be popular and productive destinations. Generally speaking, the farther north you go, the farther out and deeper you will need to dive, but you can also be rewarded with larger lobsters. The biggest challenge is finding lobster spots. Divers who find good spots tend to go back to them year after year and, understandably, don’t like to share their locations. However, there are

plenty of charter boats that specialize in taking new divers or tourists to productive spots. What you need to know: 1) A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to harvest spiny lobsters. Information is available online at MyFWC.com. 2) The recreational limit for spiny lobster is six per person, and the carapace must be longer than 3 inches. By law, it must be measured in the water. Possession and use of a measuring device are required at all times. You can google “how to measure a lobster” to be sure you are doing it correctly. 3) The possession of egg-bearing lobster is prohibited. Egg-bearing lobsters have hundreds of orange eggs that are easily visible and attached under the tail. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of season, some still have eggs in August and beyond. 4) Do not take lobsters using any device which could puncture, penetrate or crush the lobster. The most common methods are the net and tickle stick combination or the looper. There are plenty of videos online to show you how to use each method. 5) Lobsters must be landed in whole condition. Separating the tail from the body is prohibited in state waters, so bring a cooler large enough to hold the entire catch until you reach land. 6) Although most people wring/twist the tail, it’s possible to get more meat by cooking the whole lobster. Just split it in two lengthwise and broil. Sheri is a world-record holder, host of Speargun Hunter, and producer of “The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo” in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.

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FLORIDA MARINE FLEA MARKET AND BBQ FEST

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lorida Marine Flea Market and BBQ Fest Sails Into West Palm Sept. 1415. The 10th Annual Florida Marine Flea Market and BBQ Festival will be held Sept. 14-15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at South Florida Fairgrounds, 9067 Southern Blvd, West Palm Beach, Fla. Bargain hunters looking for deals can visit marine booths, as vendors exhibit and sell their nautical and marine-related merchandise and services during the twoday festival. The marine flea market area will have offshore rods, reels, tackle, dock lines, halyards, sheet lines, anchor lines, ladders, seats, bimini tops, life vests, mooring whips and bases, gauges, wakeboards, skis, wake surfers, kneeboards, boat covers, scissors, fenders, antique collectibles and maps, marine artifacts, lures and lines, boating apparel, taxidermy, diving equipment, and all kinds of other marine items. Come by for some super discounts on surplus, liquidation, closeouts, new and used boating and fishing supplies. The event promises some super discounts on new and used boating and fishing supplies as well as liquidation and closeouts items. Speaking on the location, event promoter Larry Burdgick said, “The South Florida Fairgrounds is the perfect venue since it’s right in the heart of Palm Beach County. It offers the space we need along with free great parking for our guests.” The South Florida Fairgrounds is located at 9067 Southern Blvd West Palm Beach, Fla. The Marine Flea Market is easily accessible from I-95 and the Florida Turnpike and there are acres of free parking. Admission is $10 and Children 12 and under are free. Visit The Florida Marine Flea Market, Boat Show and BBQ Seafood Festival website www.FLNauticalFleaMarket.com for more information, discount tickets, vendor applications and specific driving directions. Contact Under the Sun Promotions, Inc. at 954-205-7813.

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, KINGFISH BACK TO THE BASICS Photos by Gene Dyer

By Gene Dyer

K

6 barrel swivel. I like to stay on the long side with my leader to be a bit stealthier. This step will help to avoid line twist, especially when using a spinning reel. Now it’s time to put together some rigs. You’ll need some #5 stainless steel, coffee-colored wire, and depending on the bait that is available, octopus hooks ranging from 3/0 to 7/0 and some treble hooks in size 4 and 6. If you are using smaller baits like pilchards, you’ll want to use a smaller main hook and smaller treble hook for your stinger. For bigger baits like goggle eyes, blue runners and speedos, step up your hook size for your main hook and stinger. Use a haywire twist to attach a 20inch length of wire to the main hook. Don’t over do it, as four to five twists on a 45-degree angle will suffice. Finish off your haywire with three to four straight wraps to secure the connection. Now it’s time to attach your stinger to the main hook. Again, depending on the size of your bait, attach 4 to 8 inches of wire to your stinger hook with a haywire twist and then attach the other end of your stinger rig to the eye of the main hook with another haywire twist. It’s extremely important to rig your stinger with enough slack so that your bait will swim naturally. Now you are ready to attach your rig to your leader. Use an albright knot to connect your rig to your leader. If you don’t know how to tie an albright knot, do an Internet search and plenty of pages and videos will pop up. You can fish this setup a couple of different ways. If you will be drifting, fish at least two rods. You’ll want one bait on the surface and one deeper, from 30 to 60 feet. Send your surface bait out first and allow it to swim away from the boat. You can attach a balloon to your main line to help keep track of where your bait is. Depending on conditions, add 4 to 8 ounces of lead to your deep rod. Slip your lead on above the swivel or attach it to the main line with a rubber band. If you utilize the rubber band method, it’s highly likely that you’ll lose your sinker on the strike. These rigs can also be used for slow trolling baits. Slow trolling can help determine what depth the fish are in. Start trolling in about 60 feet and head out to 200 feet and then back to 60 feet. Once you find the fish, set up your drift at the depth. When kingfish strike, they typically go on a long run away from the boat. Take your time and slowly work the fish toward the boat. Don’t be surprised if you get it close and it takes off on another short run after it sees the boat. Let the fish run and tire out. You should then be able to get your fish back to the boat for a gaff shot to the head.

ing mackerel are aggressive predators with extremely sharp teeth. To catch them with consistency, you must prepare accordingly. Though there are many ways to rig your rods for kingfish, I’d like to focus on a few techniques that have worked for me over the years. These techniques can be utilized on both spinning and conventional tackle. To start, you’re going to want a rod in the 7-foot range that has a sensitive tip, so you can feel the bite, but also some backbone to turn the head of a smoker that just peeled off 100 yards of line in 20 seconds. Sometimes, a big king will swim right back at the boat after a blistering run, and you will have a better chance of coming tight with a higher speed reel. You’ll want nothing less than a 5-to-1 gear ratio. When it comes to line choice, you can certainly spool your reels with braided line, but I prefer 20- to 30-pound monofilament, as I’m kind of old school and learned to fish for kingfish before braid became so popular. That said, you’ll want to connect your main line to Gene Dyer is co-publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine’s Fort Lau4 to 10 feet of 40- or 50-pound fluorocarbon leader with a size 4 or derdale edition. Contact him at gene@coastalanglermagazine.com. 14

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FLY FISHING 16

CHUMMING UP MAKO SHARKS One of the greatest adversaries on the fly rod in saltwater is the shortfin mako shark. The mako is considered by many as the fastest of all sharks, but what makes this great gamefish stand out is not only its fighting ability but its tendency to leap 20 feet in the air once hooked! The mako shark is one of saltwater fly-fishing’s outstanding but unappreciated gamefish. Found on both in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, a smaller mako in the 20- to 30-pound range can be perfect for the beginning saltwater fly fisherman; of course, fishing for sharks is a tad different than fishing for bluegills in your Uncle Ned’s farm pond. First, you’ll need a boat, preferably a boat over 18 feet that can handle fairly choppy seas. Most center-consoles will do; however, a skiff with a beam of 8 feet or wider and a not-too-deep V will settle in the water better and reduce pitch and roll to a minimum, guaranteeing a much more stable casting platform. A chum line is the most effective way of attracting makos into casting distance of your boat. Chumming attracts the larger makos and will allow you to sight-cast to them. Into a chum bag, place the belly sections or fresh carcasses of tuna, bluefish or bonito. Then place the bag into a milk crate or five-gallon bucket, lower this mess by rope over the side and listen for the musical score from the movie “Jaws” to begin. You won’t have long to wait once that chum slick begins to spread. Ideally, you should use fresh carcasses, but store-bought chum will suffice. One bit of important advice: Less is more when chumming; you don’t

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need much; no matter how small the slick, a shark can smell it from miles away. Now that you have the boat and chum, the next thing to do is find a mako. On the West Coast we are fortunate to have the continental shelf only a few miles offshore. On the east coast, you’ll have to venture bit farther offshore. Keep your eyes peeled for working birds and surface-busting bait; constantly check the water temperature, looking for readings between 66 and 70 degrees. But, be patient when chumming. I will wait at least an hour and a half before moving to another spot, but there have been occasions when the sharks make their appearance within a few minutes. Once in the slick, makos will stick around for most of the fishing day. Drifting allows you to cover more water and, in the process, attract more makos to your boat. By choosing the right season, having the right chum and chumming the right areas, you can count on hooking and releasing a good number of makos during the course of a single day on the water.

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