Mako Shark - Isurus oxyrinchus
Also known as: Blue Pointer, Bonito Shark, Longfin Mako Shark, Short-nosed Mackerel Shark, Shortfin Mako Shark
Mako sharks are found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate seas. These solitary, pelagic, fast swimming species rarely come in close to shore. The shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, is most often encountered by anglers as it is more likely to move in-shore on occasion. The longfin mako, Isurus paucus, is a widely distributed offshore species considered rare in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, except along the coast of Cuba. It is taken almost exclusively by commercial longline fishermen.
Makos have a streamlined, well proportioned body and a conical pointed snout. The longfin mako has a blunter snout and a larger eye than the shortfin and much longer pectoral fins. There is a large, prominent, flattened keel on either side of the caudal peduncle. It can be easily distinguished from all other sharks by its teeth, which are like curved daggers with no cusps at the base or serrations along the razor sharp edges. The front surface is flat and the teeth are curved inward. The back of the shortfin mako is a brilliant blue-gray or cobalt blue and the sides are light blue, changing to snowy white on the belly including the lower jaw. The longfin mako is also blue above with light blue sides, and is white below except for the jaw. In real life encounters, the mako’s colors are the most strikingly beautiful of all the mackerel sharks. After death the colors fade to grayish brown.
The mako is a known enemy of the broadbill swordfish. In one case a 730 lb mako was found to have swallowed a 120 lb swordfish whole. Makos have been implicated in attacks on humans and are the undisputed leader in attacks on boats. A hooked mako will immediately unleash all its fury, reportedly leaping as high as 30 ft out of the water. It may roll, shake, dive, and charge the boat. It has also been known to bite the boat and occasionally to leap into it, causing severe injuries to the angler and wreaking havoc inside the boat.
Fishing methods include trolling with whole tuna, mullet, squid, mackerel, or lures, and also chumming or live bait fishing with similar baits. Many are hooked incidentally while trolling for marlins. The flesh is excellent and said to be similar to swordfish. The mackerel sharks (mako, white, and porbeagle) are all ovoviviparous, meaning they have internally fertilized eggs that hatch inside the mother and the young are born alive.
Birds fly above slow-moving baitfish. Get close and try to figure out if the baitfish are dead or alive. If they’re thrashing around, you should fish shallow. If they’re wounded, fish deeper.
The Open Ocean
Fishing in the open ocean is an endeavor that only confident and experienced anglers should attempt. To successfully and safely target pelagic fish species that live in the open ocean, specialized tackle and boats are typically required. The easiest way to experience offshore angling for those anglers who don’t have larger boats is to book a fishing charter.
When researching charter boats that you’re thinking of hiring, be sure to ask plenty of questions before booking your trip. Ask about the length of the trip, what species you’ll be targeting, how may people can the boat hold, will the trip be private or open to other customers and anything else you may think of. If you would like to keep any of your catch for dinner, be sure to clarify what the boat’s policy is on fish that are caught. Depending on where you’re booking a charter, some charter crews have a policy of taking fish to local auctions to sell fish that the anglers catch. Always remember that you don’t ever have to keep a fish in order to get it mounted. Exact replicas of fish can be made with only a few pictures.
Open ocean fishing takes place all over the country but certain regions require a farther boat ride offshore in order to find good fishing grounds. Eastern states typically require a longer trip out to the fishing grounds (with the exception of Southern Florida) whereas states along the Pacific Ocean have steeper dropoffs and require a much shorter ride to find deeper waters.
Open ocean pelagic species of fish include tunas, billfish, dolphin, wahoo and some shark species.
Deep Shore Water
Currents can run along the shore and form pockets of deeper water. This deeper water usually appears darker than the surrounding water in the area. Bigger fish will move into these shallows and rest or wait for baitfish to pass by. You might get something bigger than you expected.
Many fish are nocturnal feeders and become more active after the sun sets. When fishing during the night hours, natural baits, such as cut bait and live bait are great choices. Be sure to let the baits soak, and be patient for a bite.
To attract fish or get them biting again, you can throw “chum” into the water where you’re fishing. You can use ground-up bait fish, canned sweet corn, dead minnows in a coffee can (for ice fishing), pet food, even breakfast cereal. Or stir up some natural chum by scraping the bottom with a boat oar. Be sure not to over-chum. You want to get them interested in feeding; you do not want to stuff them before they get a chance to go after your hook. Chumming is not legal in all states. Check local fishing regulations to make sure you are not illegally stimulating the hunger of your future catch.
Drift fishing allows you to fish over a variety of habitats as your boat drifts with the currents or wind movement. You can drift fish on the bottom or change the depth with a bobber or float. Natural baits work very well but jigs, lures and scented artificial baits will produce good results, too. When drift fishing with multiple baits and rods, it is always a good idea to set out each bait at a different depth. This allows the angler to cover more of the water column.
One of the oldest, yet most effective, methods for catching fish is kite fishing. Originally used to carry baits out farther distances than could be cast from shore, kite fishing is now used to present baits in a more effective manner. Kites are flown from a modified rod and reel and have release clips attached to the kite line at various intervals. As the kite is let out from the boat, single fishing lines from the rods you’re using to catch the fish are attached to each release clip and carried out with the kite. Each of these attached lines will baited with live baits. Once the kite is set in place at a far enough distance from the boat, the fishing lines are tended to so that the baits are suspended from the kite and are just barely below the surface of the water. By keeping the bait splashing on the surface of the water, predatory fish are attracted to the struggling baitfish that is trying to swim down deeper into the water. When a fish takes the suspended bait, the release clips will drop only the baited line that was eaten so that the angler is now free to fight the fish in a normal manner.
Kite fishing requires constant attention to each line that is connected to the kite. It is important to make sure that the baits remain at the surface of the water while the boat is bobbing over waves in the ocean. You want to make sure that your bait remains in the water and is not floating around in the air or too far below the surface. Beginners should start kite fishing with only one or two lines connected to the kite release clips so that it is more manageable.
Contact your local bait shop to determine what kite will work best for you. There are various types of kites for virtually all wind conditions including storm force winds.
Trolling in saltwater is a good way to present baits and lures to pelagic fish by imitating a swimming baitfish or triggering the natural instincts of a fish to strike. When saltwater trolling, anglers will typically put out anywhere between two and nine lines with trolling lures staggered at various distances from the boat. Although there is no one universal trolling speed, most boats will typically troll natural baits like rigged ballyhoo, mullet, and mackerel, at speeds of 4-7 knots depending on sea conditions. Artificial trolling lures and plugs can be trolled at faster speeds of around 7-9 knots.
Bait & Lures
Using fish cut into pieces attracts fish in a different way than whole, live bait or lures. Fish that are attracted to scent are more likely to hit on cut bait. You can use just about any baitfish to make cut bait as well as other fish species. Before using any fish as cut bait, always make sure the fish you plan on using is a legal species and meets the minimum size requirement, if there is a size limit on that species. All size and species regulations can be obtained at tackle shops or your state’s fishing law enforcement website.
Saltwater Live Bait
Using live bait such as shrimp or various baitfish is a very effective method to use while targeting pelagic species of predatory fish. “Baitfish” is a term that refers to any saltwater schooling fish that serve as a food source to other larger fish. Species used are typically those that are common and breed rapidly, making them easy to catch and in regular supply. Good examples of marine bait fish are anchovies, ballyhoo (sometimes referred to as halfbeaks), herring, menhaden and scad.
Just about any fish that lives nearshore or in the open ocean can be caught using cut or whole squid. Use them whole by running the line through the inside of the mantle (the outside body shell) and hooking the squid in the head. The mantles of larger squid can be cut into vertical pieces for strip bait. You can use squid for trolling and for bottom and floating rigs.
Trolling lures come in all different shapes, colors, styles and weights and are typically trolled behind a boat at speeds of 7-12 knots. These lures are usually larger than casting lures and will typically include one or two large hooks. Many trolling lures are made with epoxy or resin heads that are attached to rubber skirts which hide the hooks. Other trolling lures have heavier metal heads with holes bored out to allow water to pass through. These lures are referred to as ‘jet heads’ because the water that passes through the lure head will quickly aerate leaving behind a trail of air bubbles that resemble smoke. Trolling lures can also be made out of rubber or plastic and may have different shaped heads. The shape of the lure’s head, weight and material will determine what type of action the lure will take when trolled. These lure head shapes include, concaved (or chuggers), slanted, rounded, pointed and jets. Each lure head shape is designed so that the action of the trolled lure mimics different types of baitfish.