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Makos on the Fly

by Nick Curcione

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I began fly fishing sharks in earnest back in the early 70’s when I returned to Southern California after a three -year period primarily fishing stripers and blues in the northeast. During one of those northeast winters I made a trip to the Florida Keys where I took my first shark (a lemon) on fly and promised myself that this was a fishery I definitely had to pursue. After making the move my major obstacle was a financial one because you need a sea worthy skiff to effectively access these species. I finally accumulated enough funds and purchased a 20-foot SeaCraft and began fishing Catalina Island on a fairly regular basis.

My inspiration for west coast shark fishing occurred when I met Larry Summers and the late Myron Gregory, the fly casting champion from Northern California. I adopted their technique of chumming with frozen blocks of ground up fish like mackerel, anchovies, and sardines and the effect was magical. It was not uncommon to have as many as 10 to 12 blue sharks swimming around the boat eager to take just about anything you put in front of them. Most were in the 45-to70 lb range and offered great sport on the old style 10-to12 wt fiberglass rods.

But the excitement quotient came off the charts when mako sharks invaded the chum slick. Zane Grey referred to them as the “aristocrat of sharks” and with good reason. These are high-speed predators that have been clocked at speeds approaching the 50- mph mark, fast enough to run down healthy tuna. Looking at the size of their gill slits tells you they are built for speed and their appearance in a chum slick gives you a clue to their character. Typically blue sharks sort of meander their way into the slick and often times you can spot their dorsal fin as they weave their way toward the boat. Makos however seem to suddenly appear and there is no mistaking them for a blue shark. The latter are very slender by comparison; makos are more fully rounded much like their close cousin the great white shark. In some locales makos are referred to as mackerel or bonito sharks, which is attributed to the fact that their diet often includes members of the tuna family.