Sharks Affecting Offshore Marlin, Sailfish, and Tuna Fishing

Four pros discuss impacts on their local fisheries

How is the local shark population affecting you?(from Left): Courtesy Bayliss Boatworks/Austin Coit, Courtesy Richard Gibson, Courtesy Capt. Doug Covin, Courtesy Capt. Chase Lake

Capt. John Bayliss

Capt. John Bayliss, Tarheel, Wanchese, North CarolinaCourtesy Bayliss Boatworks/Austin Coit

Sharks are most definitely a big problem off the coast of North Carolina. Before I was a boatbuilder, I was a full-time charter and commercial fisherman, so I’ve been able to witness population surges and cycles over a long period of time. What we have seen over the past four or five seasons is an unprecedented surge. Sharks are seriously affecting our tuna fishery, especially for the charter guys—and not in a good way. They lose some 90 percent of their tunas to sharks, and it’s wasting away a great resource. It’s time to reopen shark fishing commercially to thin the herd—with trip quotas and time limits, of course.

Capt. Randy Jendersee

Capt. Randy Jendersee, Sodium, Crystal River, FloridaCourtesy Richard Gibson

I have been fishing the North Drop since the mid-1980s. The only time we were concerned about sharks was if the fight lasted more than an hour. In the past few seasons, encounters have escalated. Now when you hook a fish, it’s a contest between the sharks and the boat, and who can catch the fish first. As soon as the boat comes out of gear, the tigers, bulls and duskies show up. They are evolving to the sound of the engines changing from trolling to idle, signaling the dinner bell. I’m always in favor of conservation, but sharks, in my opinion, are not ­endangered, at least not on the Drop.

Capt. Doug Covin

Capt. Doug Covin, CU Leader, Jupiter, FloridaCourtesy Capt. Doug Covin

It would be nice to be able to take a picture of a sail next to the boat, but after losing 20 or more to sharks this past season, I can’t take the time. Shark ­populations have been greatly underestimated. Nearly a half-dozen bull and sandbar sharks circle our boat throughout the fishing day, even with no bait in the water, just waiting for us to hook the next fish. With no allowable ­commercial shark ­fishing from Jupiter Inlet to the Dry Tortugas, in addition to the dive operators’ shark feedings that regularly take place off the coast of Jupiter, we need an emergency stock assessment.

Capt. Chase Lake

Capt. Chase Lake, Reel Fire, Destin, FloridaCourtesy Capt. Chase Lake

Our local shark ­population has been steadily on the rise since the ban on longlining was put into place. There is no disputing that sharks have a definite function in the marine ecosystem, but it seems the population continues to go unchecked even after 20-plus years. Protests are held in support of the sharks, and yet the general public will walk past a tournament-winning marlin to see a hanging shark, which shows some real disconnect. Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico are becoming bolder with every season, and it seems we are training their behavior by ­offering them an easy meal.