5 Shark Fishing Tips: How to Catch Shark 

Updated on July 9, 2022 by

Many anglers find that saltwater fishing is much more exciting and thrilling than freshwater angling in small creeks and ponds. The obvious allure to saltwater fishing is the prospect of hooking sharks, which are widely considered to be the world’s fiercest ocean predators. You can catch sharks from the surf, but it’s important to go offshore if you really want to have the chance to land a monster. 

If you’re new to shark fishing, we’ve compiled this article as a brief guide to going after the world’s most dangerous fish and some of our best shark fishing tips to help you get started. 

Species of Sharks 

Most anglers are known to target certain species of sharks, but others will simply throw their chum and bait into the water and hope for a bite from any one of the dozens of prominent shark species in certain parts of the world. States like Florida and California are best-known for being the most promising shark fishing destinations in the United States, but there are plenty of different locations across the world where an angler might catch a world-class shark. 

Some of the most common species of sharks caught by offshore and even surf fishing anglers include mako, threshers, blue sharks, blacktip, bull sharks, blacknose, sandbar, tiger and the fearsome great white shark.

There are actually more than 1,000 species of sharks known to exist throughout the world’s oceans and there are roughly a dozen different species that anglers typically catch in some of the most-visited fishing destinations of the world. 

It’s tough to target one specific type of shark unless you have a great deal of experience in saltwater fishing and you know just when and where to seek them. It’s usually best to become familiar with the types of sharks that are common to the area where you’ll be fishing and note what kind of bait they usually prefer and the depths where you are more likely to catch them. 

Shark fishing from the beach

Shark Fishing Tackle 

As you might suspect, shark fishing will require you to use heavy and strong tackle in order to land anything you happen to catch. Some sharks are larger than others and you’ll need to be prepared to fight a trophy-sized shark if you’re in an area where you’re likely to hook something. 

Most shark anglers will use a short, heavy rod that’s around 6-8 feet in length as this will provide you with enough strength to withstand the extreme pressure that a large shark will put on any rod. If you’re going to be surf fishing, you might want to opt for a longer 10’ rod or greater in order to give you the ability to cast out farther than the breaking waves. 

In addition to your fishing rod, you’ll need a large, heavy-duty reel and other tackle items in order to give yourself the best chance at landing your prey. Remember that when it comes to saltwater fishing, you can expect to ‘get what you pay for’ in terms of gear and equipment. 

If you’re willing to use a cheap rod and reel for shark fishing, don’t be surprised if it breaks or malfunctions and you end up losing your catch. As any seasoned shark angler will attest, you might go days without even getting a bite when shark fishing, so it’s essential that you prepare as best you can and have the right gear for the job once you do actually hook a shark. 

Line Size for Shark Fishing 

Another common topic of discussion among novice or beginner shark anglers revolves around what pound test you should use for sharks. There are various schools of thought when it comes to shark fishing and many anglers usually opt for heavy braided line as this will give them the most strength and resilience when fighting a shark. 

I would recommend that you use nothing lighter than a 65 pound test braided fishing line as this will be small enough to remain camouflaged in the water and out of sight, but will also give you enough strength for even a large shark. You’ll have to be careful when using anything less than 80 pound test line, whether its monofilament or braided line. 

As you might suspect, fluorocarbon line is virtually out-of-the-question when it comes to shark fishing as it simply will not hold up against the intense amount of pressure or the shark’s razor-sharp teeth. It’s crucial that you use a steel leader line when possible as this will prevent the shark’s teeth from cutting through the line as you are fighting the fish. 

Drag Requirements for Shark Fishing 

There’s no set rule of thumb when it comes to the specific drag requirement you’ll need when shark fishing, but you will usually find that anglers recommend nothing less than 20 pounds of maximum drag capacity in any type of reel. Obviously, you’ll be better off using a large, heavy casting reel for offshore fishing, but it’s acceptable to use a spinning reel setup for surf fishing. In either case, you should consider using nothing less than 25 pounds of max drag capacity when shark fishing. 

If you’re specifically going after smaller sharks and you will be fishing in an area where it’s unlikely that you’ll hook a massive shark, you can get away with using a reel that’s as light as 15 pounds of max drag, but otherwise, you can truly never have too much max drag weight on a reel that you intend to fish for trophy-size shark species. 

We recommend using as much drag weight as possible as this will allow you to reel the shark in as quickly as possible and will force the shark to tire itself out before you get it in. 

Chumming the Water 

The dirtiest part of shark fishing is chumming the water. Unlike going after other species of fish, sharks must be drawn in by appealing to their senses and it’s crucial that you chum the water with a bloody concoction of fish guts, cut bait and plenty of blood. 

There are numerous ways you can prepare your chum and some combinations are known to work for certain species of sharks. It’s best to ask some of the local anglers what kinds of chum tends to work best in order to eliminate much of the guesswork and draw the sharks in close to your boat. If you’re surf fishing, be sure to check the regulations on chumming the water as you never want to draw sharks into an area where there might be people swimming. 

You can purchase premixed chum online or at a local bait shop, but this will typically not work as well as freshly-cut fish and blood. You can usually check around local fish markets to see if any commercial fishing operations or processing locations can offer cheap or even free chum material for your fishing trip. You can never use too much, but it’s obvious that you don’t want to use all your chum in one area. 

chicken liver chum

How to Release a Shark 

Catching and releasing a shark will differ in terms of difficulty and danger depending on the species and size of your catch. You won’t have too much trouble with smaller sharks, but it’s good to know and practice solid catch and release techniques with small species of sharks so that you’ll be well-prepared when you do happen to catch a large one. 

Be sure to use barbless hooks at all times since this will greatly decrease the effort you’ll need to expend in getting the hook loose and free from the shark’s mouth. It will also be much less dangerous than trying to dislodge and remove a barbed hook from a shark’s mouth using pliers or especially your hands. 

If the hook is too deep in the shark’s mouth or throat, don’t attempt to remove it. This will only cause more damage than is necessary and might open the possibility for you to get bit if you put your hand near its mouth. Simply cut the line as close to the hook as possible. This isn’t the most ideal approach, but most hooks (especially barbless) will come loose on their own over time and the shark will survive. 

For surf fishing, try to grab the shark’s tail as quickly as possible, but be sure that the rod’s pressure is not pulling the head towards your position. Once you have a firm grip of the tail, drag the shark up and out of the water quickly before the waves move in and allow it to swim away. 

Tie a rope around the tail and use this to pull the shark farther out of the water so you can get a good photo and then release it. Most experienced shark anglers will use a pair of bolt cutters to grab hold of the hook and dislodge it, but make sure that you have a heavy-duty pair of bolt cutters with long enough arms not to put your own arms or hands at risk of being bitten. 

When fishing from a boat, use your best judgment as to when you should reel the shark in and attempt to secure it. Doing this before the shark has tired itself out can result in a nightmare situation of a very live and adrenaline-fueled shark near, or even onboard your boat. Bring the shark up alongside your boat when you’re ready. It’s best to be prepared and have a well-rehearsed plan as to which side you’ll bring the shark up to and the process you’ll use to secure, then release the fish. 

Use a tail rope instead of a gaff and approach the shark’s mouth from behind, straddling the fish as you prepare to remove the hook. Depending on the size of the shark, you may be able to remove the hook with gloves, but we recommend always using a hook removal tool (preferably one with a long arm) to remove the hook safely and without issue. Be sure to stay away from the area directly next to the shark’s head as they will thrash side-to-side when startled agitated, especially when you go to begin removing the hook. 


Shark fishing is especially dangerous and exciting, but it can be remarkably safe and enjoyable if you follow the best practices and use sound judgment. If you intend to practice catch and release, remember not to have the shark out of the water for longer than is necessary to remove the hook and snap a quick photo. By following these shark fishing tips, you’ll be well on your way to safely catching these majestic ocean predators on your own while allowing them to be released and survive the encounter. 

Photo of author

Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, The Outdoor Trip, Man Can Outdoors, Global Fishing Reports, and Bassmaster.