Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips We are going surf fishing and my son wants to catch a shark!
We are going surf fishing and my son wants to catch a shark!

“We are going surf fishing and my son wants to catch a shark!”

While many anglers consider sharks, skates, and rays trash fish, other
anglers simply want to catch anything, and sharks are considered a very
interesting catch, especially for the inland fisherman that has never seen a
live shark up close. I think every young boy that comes into our shops is
fascinated by the fact that he may catch a real, live shark!

Many people call them sand sharks, but they are actually called smooth
dogfish sharks. They are one of the most prevalent species of sharks anglers
catch off the surf in our area. They can get up to 4-feet long, but in the
summer we catch lots of smaller ones. It tickles the kids and the good news
is that they don’t have sharp teeth like other sharks and they can’t bite
you. They have low, flat, pavement-like teeth that crush and grind their
food. When you catch one, they wiggle around a lot and have skin that feels
like sand paper. If you grab one firmly with a rag, you can usually get the
hook out easily with your hands or a pair of pliers.

The smooth dogfish sharks feed on crabs, small fish, and clams in the surf.
If you or the kids want to target them, squid is one of their favorite
baits. But believe me, they’ll take just about anything you offer them, as
they will bite your baits whether you want to catch them or not if they are

Since smooth dogfish sharks do not have sharp teeth, you do not need special
tackle to catch them. You don’t even need real big hooks. If the kids just
want to catch a shark to see one, these are the sharks you will want to
catch. Simply use a small bluefish rig or even a kingfish rig in summer so
you can catch other fish such as snapper blues, kingfish, croaker and spot.
“Can you keep them? I heard you are only allowed to keep one shark and it
must be 54 inches long?”

In the definition of sharks, dogfish are not considered sharks so you can
keep some if you want. The state of MD allows one shark per day, per person,
over 54 inches, EXCLUDING dogfish, which have no size or creel limits.

The following is the official shark regulations from our MD DNR site. These
regulations are actually federal regulations so every state along the coast
must abide. It is very confusing however if you want to catch and keep a
shark because the sharks are very hard to tell apart without having a shark
identification book with you. Here’s the official rule:

Fisherman are prohibited from possessing white, dusky, sand tiger, bigeye
sand tiger, whale, basking bignose, Galapagos, Night, Caribbean reef,
narrowtooth, Caribbean sharpnose, smalltail, Atlantic angel, longfin mako,
bigeye thresher, sevengill, sixgill and bigeye sixgill. Except for those
sharks that are prohibited, recreational fisherman are allowed to possess
one shark per vessel per trip with a minimum size of 54-inches and one
Atlantic sharpnose shark per person per trip with no minimum size.

Just remember, when you look at the mouth of a dogfish shark, you cannot
even see his teeth they are so flat. So if you catch a shark and it does not
have teeth, you are safe to keep it if you like. But keep in mind, cleaning
a shark is no fun and unless it is of some size (at least 3-feet) you are
not going to get much meat off of it. Most anglers enjoy the fight, take a
picture, and release the sharks. I think it’s good to teach the kids to
release some fish anyway.

You won’t catch all those sharks above in the surf! The most prevalent
sharks WITH TEETH that anglers catch from the surf are sand tigers sharks
and dusky sharks. Both are prohibited species and must be released. Sandbar
sharks can be kept BUT look very similar to the prohibited dusky shark.

A noaa site http://na.nefsc.noaa.gov/sharks/spec...kysandbar.html expounds
on the difference: “The sandbar and dusky sharks share many characteristics.
The teeth are similar in number, size, and shape. Size of eyes, gills,
mouth, and nostrils are also similar, as are most body proportions. There
are differences in the shape, size, and location of the fins, although these
features are subtle. The dusky's fins are proportionately smaller and swept
back, whereas the fins of the sandbar are broader and the first dorsal is
higher and originates further forward. The two sharks are easily separable
when the skin is viewed through a 10X hand magnifier. The scales on the
dusky shark are overlapping and shingle-like, while those on the sandbar
shark are separated and more like cobblestones.
Sharks, like other animals, change shape and appearance as they grow and
mature. Their bodies thicken, fins become relatively longer and distances
between the fins appear to change as the sharks reach maximum sizes. As a
consequence of these changes, young sandbar and dusky sharks look very
similar even though the adults look quite different. The smaller sizes (3-4
feet total length) are most similar and nearly impossible to tell apart in
the water. At 5 to 6 feet, the dusky is a trimmer shark than the sandbar,
with sickle-shaped fins and a longer, lower caudal fin. The first dorsal fin
on a 5-foot dusky is further back and more rounded than on one of 3-4 feet.
The overall shape of the sandbar shark is less changeable with size,
although the fins become slightly broader and the girth is proportionately
larger than a dusky of the same size. Otherwise, sandbars keep the same
husky shape from juvenile to adult. The maximum sizes reached by these
species can also help to identify them. Sandbar sharks mature at 5-6 feet
and rarely reach 8 feet or 200 pounds. Dusky sharks mature at 8 feet, reach
10-12 feet and several hundred pounds. Consequently, a 250+ lb. shark is
definitely not a sandbar shark; it could be a dusky, but it should be keyed
out in the Anglers' Guide to Sharks or other literature.”

SO, unless you really have your shark id’s down, if it’s got teeth and you
are unsure of its identity, take a picture and release it!
“I want to catch and release a bigger shark, no just a dogfish shark!”
Surf anglers that want to catch bigger sharks must keep in mind that they
should be very careful. Even if a shark appears to be not moving, it can
suddenly open its mouth and snap at you! Always make sure that your
fingers; hands, and toes are nowhere near the mouth of a shark with teeth!
Your best bet for catching sharks is to fish on the Assateague or the
Delaware Seashore State Park beaches where the sharks seem to come in a
little closer. Assateague in the summer month can be especially good as
there’s a nice slough that runs naturally close to shore. Just as the big
stripers and drum come through during other times of year, larger sharks
swim by during the summer months when the water is warm. I’ve seen them
swimming within 5 feet of the beach down there!
If you are fishing Ocean City beaches your best bet is to fish very early in
the morning or at dusk or after dark. Nighttime fishing is always more
productive for shark fishing whether you want them or not! For bigger fish,
go with a larger hook in the #5/0 to #10/0 range and be sure to use a
steelon leader that is at least a 60-pound test so the fish does not bite
through the leader. If you want to buy a pre-made rig, a large bluefish rig
will work or Sea Striker or Eagle Claw “Shark Rigs” are available to buy at
many tackle stores. It’s not just their teeth that will break monofilament;
it is also the sand paper like skin that will rub through your monofilament

Serious shark fishermen who fish with their rod in a rod holder on the beach
waiting for the “big one” use a seven foot steelon or cable leader and crimp
on a circle hook. Like stripers, sharks are less likely to be “gut hooked”
if you use a circle hook as opposed to a regular type hook.
“Do we need a surf float?”
You do not have to have one, but if you are not using a large bait, it
helps to keep the crabs from eating off your bait. Most sharks swim above
the bottom floor so it certainly doesn’t deter them.
“What should I use for bait?”
Any oily fish works good. Bunker is very popular in our area. A whole bunker
head will stay on for a long time. You can use a small fish head such as a
spot head, croaker head, snapper blue or kingfish head. A whole small fish
will also work, or a large chunk of any kind of cut bait. Squid always
works, and you can also use one of those small whole California squids you
can buy in a box. Yes, use the whole squid instead of cutting it up!

“I hear some people use kayaks or a surf board to carry out the baits to
deeper water?”

Yes, they do, and yes it can be very dangerous. Forget about the surfboard
unless you have a death wish! The kayak is for the very experienced because
sharks can come after the baits while the man in the kayak is still paddling
back towards the beach to get to his rod that is positioned in a sand spike
or in a fighting chair.
For the inexperienced surf fisherman, it is best to stay on the land and
cast out into the ocean! Use at least 20-pound test or heavier 50-pound test
Power Pro type line with some heavier leader tied in.

“How do you clean a shark?”

If you decide to keep a larger smooth dogfish shark or other shark you are
allowed to keep, you want to gut it right away and get it on ice. Then you
cut off the head, skin the shark, and cut it in steaks. Sharks don’t have
bones like other fish, but have cartilage instead.
Again, please be very careful if you are targeting sharks. If you are after
the big ones, a good site to refer to is DelmarvaFishing.com. Sam has a very
good site there and is an expert on catching sharks in the surf.
Good fishing…