The correct handling of sharks and rays – by Stefan Oosthuizen

If you are a novice to shark fishing, spend time with experienced anglers or book a guided trip with one of the professional fishing guides along the coast. You will quickly learn the correct procedures to target sharks and the correct handling as well.

Before even choosing a fishing location, make sure you have the correct fishing gear for the target species.

Make sure to use good quality hooks, line, leader, rods and reels. This will eleviate the fighting time to land the fish as well as any stress caused to the fish. During the fight apply maximum pressure at all times as this will also decrease the fight time and place the shark in good stead when being released.

At all times have fishing gear in 100% working order. Make sure you use the correct knots to tie your hooks and connect your main line too backing braid. Circle hooks are much better to use as most of the time the fish is hooked in the side of the mouth making it very easy to get the hook out again.

When you have decided on a fishing spot, make sure to identify the easiest place to safely land the shark or ray for yourself and the fish. When a gaff needs to be used decide for yourself if its really worth it to damage the fish or just to choose a different spot where it can be landed with less difficulty.

When the shark is close to being landed, have a pliers or hook removing tool, wet cloth (over the fish’s eyes), tagging kit as well as camera ready as not to waste time when the fish is on the beach. Grab the shark by the tail or the stingray in the mouth (Not in the spiracles on the top of the head, it is breathing organs and tear easily). The closer you keep the fish to the water’s edge the easier it is to release the fish later.

Check the condition of the fish first, if it is in bad condition, rather unhook the fish and release it as quick as possible. Remember how long you can hold your breath underwater, the shark or ray is out of the water and doing the same.

Never flip a ray over onto its back as this injures it’s internal organs. If the hook is deeply swallowed rather cut the tracee than pulling on the line and injuring the internal organs.

During a shark tagging research trip, the anglers fish in pairs and when one hooks a shark, his partner reels in and gets all the gear ready for a quick tag and release. The shark is put on a wet mat with a cloth over its eyes, calming it down. The measurements are taken and quickly tagged. The shark is then transported in the mat back to the water and held into the waves untill it is strong enough to swim away.

With shark and ray numbers plummeting globally, through the shark fin trade as well as shark meat being exported to Australia and Spain it is paramount to look after each and every shark and ray you catch. Media and members of the public can easily paint a negative picture towards shark angling and this could lead to stricker regulationns or banning shark angling altogether.

Article written by Stefan Oosthuizen for  Struisbaai Huisverhuring

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