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August 18, 2010

Sight-Fish for SoCal Makos

Southern California's trophy mako sharks provide hot sight-fishing action...

Handle With Care
Once a mako is hooked, fighting the fish becomes a team event for the captain (purple shirt), mate (yellow shirt) and angler (green shirt). A weak team member is like a weak link in a chain and can mean the difference between releasing a large mako alongside the boat, losing it - or worse yet, someone getting seriously injured.

Mako diagram by Joe Mahler
By Joe Mahler / www.markerjockey.com

The angler handles the rod while the leader man assists the angler and communicates to the captain what the fish is doing. The captain has the most important job, managing the crew and keeping them calm while using the boat to wear down the fish.

"It's important to fight the fish with the boat moving forward," says Quinlan (1). "This keeps you mobile and helps prevent a big shark from running under the boat to cut you off. Once the fish begins swimming steadily with its dorsal fin out of the water, it's time to position the shark parallel to the boat (2). Then close distance until you have the shark alongside. You want him swimming the same direction as you and, hopefully, too tired to sound."

Once the leader man has hold of the leader and control of the fish, the angler moves all the way forward to clear room in the cockpit (3). Without taking any wraps around his wrist or hand, the leader man gently takes in leader until the shark is in reach of the release man (4). If the circle hook is lodged in the shark's mouth, slide the release device - Quinlan uses a 6-foot dehooker - down the leader to pop out the hook. If the hook is deep, cut the leader as close as possible to the fish without putting your hands anywhere near its mouth. If you're using steel cable for large fish, you'll need cable cutters. Never, under any circumstances, bring a mako into the boat.

Gaffing and roping huge makos requires teamwork, practice and steady nerves. You should have no less respect for a shark you plan to release than for any other. For this reason, Quinlan recommends tackling a few medium-size makos before messing with monsters.

"This is another huge advantage of sight-fishing," he says. "You can decide if your crew is up to the challenge before you put a bait in the water."