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    Default Drift-Fishing for Mako Sharks: Bluewater Bruisers

    Drift-Fishing for Makos: Bluewater Bruisers

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    By Jack Innis


    Photo by: Photo by C&M Fallows/Seapics.com


    Brad De La Cruz with a nice 690-lb. mako caught during the 2004 Mako
    My Night Tournament. It was the largest mako caught off California in 2004.
    Photo by: Photo courtesy of Steve Quinlan


    Jeffrey Vinquist poses with his 305-lb. mako he caught aboard
    Exterminator 12 miles off Marina Del Rey.
    Photo by: Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Vinquist
    While fishing is a sport that emphasizes patience, those drift-fishing mako
    sharks normally do better if they act a little antsy.

    At least that's the word that comes down the pipe from legendary mako
    hunter, Keith Poe. Poe is somewhat of an authority on makos. He has spent
    the past 12 years obsessed with hunting the speedy predators. He's been
    featured on several outdoor television shows, conducted mako-hunting
    seminars and been the catalyst for a public awareness campaign that may help
    keep the sharks from being fished to the brink of extinction.

    In doing so, Poe estimates he has personally caught, tagged and released
    more than 2,000 makos. His largest tipped the scales at more than 1,000 lbs.
    The international Game Fish Association lists a 1,222-lb. fish, taken by
    Luke Sweeney off the Massachusetts coastline in 2001, as the largest mako on
    record.

    Catching makos is simple, Poe claims. But simple can be deceiving: Shooting
    nine under par at Augusta is simple if you're Tiger Woods. Hitting a
    three-run homer on an 0/2 slider away is simple if you're Barry Bonds.
    Regardless of whether these feats are simple or merely made to look simple,
    Poe is forthcoming about the "what, how, when, where and why" (something
    Woods and Bonds are not).

    No amount of reading can substitute for on-the-water experience, but a basic
    understanding of mako behavior will likely translate into on-water success.

    "I always tell everyone, don't just pack up your boat and run offshore to a
    bank," Poe said. "Instead, spend time doing advance research, much the same
    as prior to an albacore trip. Most fishermen run up to the banks, throw out
    a bucket of chum and sit and hope for the best."

    Unlike rock cod, pelagic sharks do not sit and wait for a meal. They spend
    their entire lives in continuous movement in search of prey. These mobile
    predators don't waste energy by hunting in the wrong places. Makos are
    usually found in a specific temperature range where there is an ample food
    supply. The optimum conditions are 70-degree surface temperature, lots of
    bait (preferably mackerel) and a good current (1-3 knots) parallel to the
    shelf.

    "Look on your way out," he said. "Hunt for bioluminescence (water that glows
    when disturbed, also called phosphorescence) on your way out. When you see
    bioluminescence, that's where all your life is. That's where your bait is.
    If you fish the temperature breaks and become aware of bioluminescence, you'll
    quadruple the effects of your efforts on the water."

    But wait! Doesn't it have to be dark to see bioluminescence? "You betcha,"
    Poe said. "That's when you should be mako fishing!"

    "We've recently received results from sonic tracking by David Holtz from the
    National Oceanic and Aerospace Administration. The sonic tracking shows that
    makos are two-thirds more active by night than by day."

    Poe believes makos' huge eyes give them an advantage at night, when their
    superior eyesight allows them to sneak up on prey. "They often go down
    during the day, then run in the thermoclines at night when the bait can't
    see them coming as easy," he said.

    Beyond studying temperature breaks and looking for bait schools and
    bioluminescence on the way out, Poe strongly believes in having a plan of
    action - or four plans to be more precise. Before leaving the dock,
    pre-select at least four different spots that best meet the optimum water
    conditions. Upon reaching the first spot, use your fishfinder to locate a
    school of baitfish. If fishing during the day, look for signs of birds and
    jumpers. Then determine the direction and strength of the drift. Move your
    boat about a mile upstream so that your chum slick will pass directly over
    the spot. But don't end the hunt right there.

    "If after an hour there is no activity, move on to the next spot on your
    list," Poe said. "This is why you pre-selected four spots - you're
    quadrupling your odds of success."

    Drift fishing for makos is all about chumming and Poe has boiled down his
    years of experience with chum into a few easily digestible dictums. He
    recommends chumming with new Fishall Chum. Dump two square buckets of
    Fishall into a lidded 5-gallon bucket with 40 1-inch holes drilled into the
    sides. "I call this choke chumming, and top that off by using a 1-gallon
    dispenser of Menhaden Fish Oil in the fully open position."

    Since even the best oil slick only distributes its smell along the boat's
    drift path, Poe also hangs a Mako Magnet over the side. A Mako Magnet is an
    acoustic device that transmits a sound similar to that of a wounded
    baitfish. According to company literature, the sound transmits 360 degrees
    in a 1-mile plus radius from the boat. It is so effective in attracting
    makos that the manufacturer suggests the $350 machine be caged, lest it be
    eaten.

    Although expensive, Mako Magnets are used extensively by the scientific
    community as a way of saving time and fuel. "Scientists know that makos have
    incredibly sensitive hearing and pressure-wave perception," Poe explained.
    "These low frequency sounds really attract them."

    If there is a science behind finding makos, there's an art in catching them.
    That art is to expect to catch a small mako but be prepared to tangle with a
    behemoth. "Generally, most anglers are going to catch small fish," Poe said.
    "But it depends on what you want. If you want a trophy fish, pick larger
    bait and head out to colder waters. Use huge baits and wait for your big
    fish. If you see a smaller fish come up on your line, pull your big bait
    away from it and drop back a smaller bait. Enjoy mako fishing for what it
    is. Ninety-nine percent of the time you're going to catch a 40- to 60-lb.
    fish."

    Rigging for such a fight is not as daunting a task as it might seem at first
    blush. For the fish that most casual anglers are going to encounter, 20-lb.
    test with a 5-foot, 60- to 100-lb. single-strand wire leader is more than
    enough, Poe said.

    "I recommend using an 8/0 non-offset wide-gap thin-wire circle hook. Those
    seem to work pretty well for most of our small makos. Actually, sardines
    work fine for bait too. Flyline the bait with the reel out of gear and the
    clicker on. When the clicker starts screaming, count to three and put the
    reel in gear." Then it's game on! Or is it?

    While fishing lore brims with stories of insane mako fights, once in a while
    anglers will complain that the fish gave up without much of a struggle. Poe
    has seen it happen.

    "Sometimes a mako will not fight very hard," Poe said. "That may be due to a
    number of things. One, it's already been chasing bait around the boat for
    quite a while. By the time it comes moseying up and grabs your bait, it has
    nothing left in its gas tank. The best way to avoid a tired mako is to throw
    your bait out a little farther and attach a chemical light to it. That way,
    it will be among the first baits attacked by the fish."

    Another possible reason for a light fight is that the fish is gut hooked.
    "Makos are smarter than other fish. If it's hooked in the wrong place, it
    may know that a struggle could be fatal." Poe suggests using a light drag to
    give the fish the opportunity to jump more.

    But anglers should always be extremely wary when fishing makos. These top
    predators are maniacs of the deep.

    "Don't get lulled into believing that landing even a small mako is easy. All
    of them have the same attitude and temperament. They're very unpredictable
    and you don't know where they're going to land" Poe said.

    Personal horror stories include one 7-footer that attempted to tail-walk
    right over the transom of Poe's 24-foot Skipjack. "It was swimming as fast
    as it could - but in mid-air - and it was everything I could do to
    physically push the shark out of the boat."

    Poe recalls another nightmarish battle with an estimated 700-lb. mako that
    occurred two years ago at the 172 Bank. "When I set the hook, the fish began
    cartwheeling and tumbling across the surface of the water toward the boat so
    fast, I didn't even have time to get the rod out of the holder. It was going
    crazy. I ran up onto the flybridge to escape, but by the time I got there
    the fish was already airborne above the flybridge, over the bow. I actually
    cut my hand trying to escape and had to give up that fight before I bled
    out. The shark won that one."

    Poe has come to the personal realization that makos do not purposefully jump
    out of the water for specific reasons. He believes the speedsters merely run
    out of real estate.

    "One of the reasons they jump more at night than at day is because they don't
    see where the water ends and the air begins," Poe went on. "During the
    daytime when the sun's out, there seems to be a mirror effect [as seen from
    underwater] at the ocean's surface. At night, the fish don't have that and
    they're just running out of water, freaking out because something isn't
    right. I don't think they jump. I think they just run out of water and their
    momentum carries them into the air. I don't think they jump at all."

    Once a shark is brought to leader, it should be handled with caution and
    released carefully. Poe has spent much of the last decade furthering mankind's
    knowledge about these magnificent predators and has built a public awareness
    campaign that strongly recommends releasing the fish, especially small
    females.

    "The guidelines I feel we should follow are that no fish under 6-feet be
    killed, no females be killed and that anglers take only one fish per
    season," Poe said. "The rest should be tagged."

    The key to a clean release begins with the mako's initial run. Do not let
    the shark take a prolonged initial run or it may swallow the hook and become
    injured during the fight. Anglers can also help ensure a clean hookset (in
    the jaw) by not putting more than 100 feet of line off the back of the boat.

    Releasing a thrashing mako requires the utmost care - not just for the
    angler's safety. "You have to be extremely careful when you use the release
    stick that you're not pushing it down their throat," he explained. His
    favorite tool is a Burns Saltwater Outfitter Release Stick.

    "You need to go in sideways. Otherwise, you'll damage their gills. Scripps
    Institution of Oceanography scientists who have been on my boat many times
    tell me that the fish is not going to survive with even minimal damage to
    the gills. Remember, that if you are going to go out and catch makos, there
    is no room for error and the job should be done right the first time."

    Poe's personal wish for the mako fishery is to get more recreational anglers
    involved with tagging, acquire more scientific data and persuade legislators
    to take a more active role in protecting the species. But without science,
    it's hard to argue for change.

    Since 1983 when the DFG initiated its volunteer pelagic shark-tagging
    program, 21,000 shortfin makos have been tagged and released. Unfortunately,
    there are only a handful of active taggers on the West Coast and most of
    them tag only a few sharks per year. To date, less than 100 makos have been
    recaptured. Moreover, most recaptures occurred within 30 days and within 50
    miles of the initial site of the original capture.

    "Recreational anglers offer an important link between scientist and policy
    makers," Poe said. "There is a pressing need for more fishermen to get
    involved. Pick up the phone and call (562) 590-4801 to get a free tagging
    kit, contact me at (310) 371-4401 or visit my Web site www.sharktagger.com.
    The future of our resource depends on it."

  2. #2
    Hooked Up Keith Poe's Avatar
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