Mako Shark Fishing

Here's how to catch the massive makos that swim along the Atlantic coast.

September 21, 2007


Live Baiting

The larger makos caught along the Atlantic coast are taken by directed chumming, although they occasionally hit trolled marlin and tuna baits. Most chummers use live baits, preferring them over dead offerings.

Five-gallon buckets of frozen chum are available at many East Coast tackle shops, making the chore of chumming easier. Some skippers also chunk with cut mackerel or herring while chumming. As the boat drifts or slowly idles forward, an oily slick is created, which the sharks follow right to the hook baits.


Since makos are wary, the closest live bait should be placed at least 60 feet from the boat, with a second and slightly deeper bait farther back. Baits are held close to the surface with balloons or plastic inline floats. (For more specifics on chumming, see blue shark.)


When hooked, the first thing a mako usually does is leap for the sun! When it crashes back into the water, it will often land on the line and pop it like a string. One way to increase your chances is to “bow to the fish,” either by lowering the rod tip to create slack line or by pulling back a bit on the drag lever. Be cautious of the last mentioned tactic, because it’s possible to inadvertently slip the reel into free-spool during the excitement.


Once the fish calms down, try to lead it with the boat, keeping the mako aft of the stern quarter. If the fish sounds, do not follow it — lead it. Keep pressure on the mako at all times during this process. Yes, you may become tired, but so will the shark.

When the Mako is wired, gaff it just aft of the dorsal fin and then immediately sink a smaller gaff into the fish back toward the tail. Get that propeller out of the water, so the mako has no propulsion to jump at boatside. Once you have secured a tail-rope to your catch, all onboard can breathe easier.



Californians prefer to troll, accounting for a higher catch of smaller fish, yet a number of seasoned skippers use the old East Coast method– drifting with a 5-gallon bucket of frozen chum hanging from the stern.

The California method of trolling is usually a subsurface game, a slow and deep troll. A typical setp includes a very deep bait towed at a depth of 60 to 130 feet on a downrigger, a second bait fished off a flatline, and a third bait fished behind an outrigger.

Mackerel are the most common Pacific mako baits. The downrigger bait can be a whole fish rigged with a plastic skirt over its head, or it can be a fillet. The outrigger bait could be another skirted, whole fish with a heavy 16-oz. egg sinker hidden beneath the skirt. And the flat line might drag a Bally-Hood or Baitmaster rig.


Slow trolling is best accomplished at speeds of 3 to 5 knots and is surprisingly effective.

It should be noted that makos are fast swimmers that aren’t shy about chasing down a lure. Some pros do well by trolling high-speed swimming plugs and specialized jet-type, skirted lures.

Grilled Mako

Mako shark is one of the tastiest of fish, similar in flavor to swordfish. What better way to celebrate a great catch than to invite the crew to a barbecued steak dinner. This recipe is a favorite.

** Ingredients:**

  • 4 to 6 Mako or Fako steaks, 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil, juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped, pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Combine wine, lemon, oil, garlic, pepper, and one half of the basil, in a large bowl to make the marinade. Pat the shark steaks dry with a paper towel; place them in the marinade for about an hour, turning them occasionally for even distribution.

Remove the mako steaks and place them over a hot barbecue for about 10 minutes, 5 minutes each side. Empty the marinade into a large skillet and reduce over heat while the steaks are cooking. Then remove the steaks from the grill and arrange on a platter. Pour the reduced marinade over the fish before serving, adding the remaining fresh basil as a garnish.

This recipe can be varied. You may, for example, want to substitute fresh oregano or dill for the basil. If you broil the steaks, add 2 minutes to the cooking time and turn them after 6 minutes.


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