Capt. Scott Hamilton reports on the Palm Beach fishing for late winter
Hooking into a spinner shark on fly is one of the biggest thrill rides in saltwater fly fishing. I’ve heard spinner sharks be referred to as “tarpon on steroids” for these bruisers’ ability to wear you out while performing aerial acrobatics that will surely be burned into your brain forever. Not to mention the intense rush you get as you watch a small submarine close its eyes, open its mouth and chomp down on your bright monstrosity of a fly.
It’s early February and we’ve had our first spinner shark encounter of the year. Generally our initial encounter is not a friendly one, the fish tend to be very skittish when they first show up. Not this time. They came ready to play. We put seven in the air. Out of those seven we got three to the boat. Historically speaking this is a little late for us to be seeing the first group of sharks. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll finish late too, so we expect to keep pulling on them through the end of March, beginning of April. Regardless for now we’re just glad they’re here.
For spinner shark fishing you’re going to want every bit of a 12 weight, bring bigger if you have. You’ll need a reel that holds at least 300 yards of backing and a tropical floating line. Leader wise, 9ft of straight 50lb mono with a foot and a half of #7 wire is sufficient. Your fly shouldn’t be anything special – half a red or orange chicken and enough deer hair to keep it on the surface. Make a long cast or drift the fly out with the current in your scent trail, and wait for a shark to come check it out. Don’t move the fly, especially when a shark is on it, just let the current do its thing with the hackle. The expression “hold on for dear life” after pumping the hookset has never been truer than in reference to spinner sharks. The combination of tough skin, razor teeth, absolutely blistering runs, and the aptitude to make UFO-like revolutions (spins) in the air make it quite the achievement to get one to the boat. It’s an experience that those who are into fly fishing for the adrenalin rush and for the challenge aren’t able to get enough of.
Tide will determine how far off the beach we’ll sit. Anytime the wind has a trace of east in it is a no-go as the sharks will be inside of where the waves break. Every other direction is tolerable, with a north wind being the most desirable.
In addition to spinner sharks, we’ve also been running into big bluefish and ladyfish, which have been a blast on 3-5 weights – as well as pompano in the surf, kingfish on the reef, big amberjacks on the area wrecks, and small skipjack tuna plus scattered dolphin offshore. We should start seeing massive schools of giants jacks moving through pretty soon as well.