Catching sharks from the sand is often associated with the warmer part of the year, where hot, balmy nights make for ideal conditions to kick back on a beach with a line out, waiting for a 'grey suit' of some description to sniff out your baits.
Unbeknown to a lot of fishos in the southern half of the country is that the cooler months of the year actually present a range of reliable shark options, some of which are quite unique to this time of year. Chasing sharks over these months is a great way to get out of a rut as well and get some braid peeling off your reel, plus many of these sharks make fantastic tucker if you wish to take one home and care for it correctly.
Sharks never veer far away from a reliable food source, which is in part why they continue to be caught over these months. As water temps drop around southern Australia, vast schools of mullet and salmon arrive in our inshore waters and often from quite sizable schools along surf and semi protected beach areas. With so many fish schooled up it's no surprise that a few toothy predators are hot on their heels and keen to cash in on this easy protein source.
Breeding also accounts for the presence of some of the shark species about to be looked at, with elephant sharks and sevengill for instance looking to use this period to procreate. While fishing on beaches over the late autumn and winter months can require a hardnosed approach (particularly after dark), the results are well worth it as will be looked at.
Southern Australia is renowned for its 'snotty' weather conditions during the next few months, and beaches can easily be rendered unfishable when weed is rolling around in the shorebreak after a strong blow, or you've got enough wind blowing directly in your face to slam your pocket knife shut! This is why timing your beach assaults for sharks is so vital; not only from a comfort standpoint, but also from the perspective of being able to keep a bait in the water.
In between the vicious low fronts that lash our coastline there's always small windows of quite mild weather, and this is the time to be hitting the sand. I find this fishing is less about working the tides and more about spending time soaking baits when conditions allow. Of course if you have good tides on top of mild weather then the odds are tipped further in your favour.
All the usual beach fishing rules apply for this fishing; namely try and find a good deep gutter that has a clear branch to deeper water, or fish a nice shelving beach where baits will be set in a reasonable depth of water.
To catch surf sharks you don't need to be fishing at night or in an overly deep beach gutter however. Earlier I touched on the fact that sharks are drawn in close to schools of salmon and mullet for example, and the presence of these fish can attract sharks into some of the most unlikely areas imaginable, with even quite protected to semi-protected beaches being invaded by packs of toothies. Keep your eyes peeled for oil slicks, any fish being parted by sharks, or fresh war wounds on fish being caught as a giveaway that these predators aren't far away.
Tackle & Bait
For cool season sharks like large gummies, bronze whalers, sevengill and others I prefer to use sizable threadlines filled with braid or mono. Reels like large Baitrunners and the Spheros SW 20000 have been great for me when matched up to a sturdy rod option like the Revolution Coastal Spin 1202. A sturdy outfit like this is ideal for slinging slab or whole fish baits and putting the brakes on a rampant shark. The x factor with sharks on the beach is you just never know how big that next one will be!
30-50lb braid with a long shock leader, or 30lb mono is fine for the most part to spool reels with. For trace we use wire up to 200lb and keep traces short and manageable. Too many people make them way to long which can impact on your casting distance. For gummies and even sevengill a heavy mono leader of say 100lb and circle hooks can land you these sharks consistently, however there's always a risk of getting worn through, particularly by sevengill. Running or set rigs are fine depending on surf conditions, with dual 7/0-8/0 hooks preferred for a solid hook hold and to present longer baits more naturally.
Elephant sharks are one of the more peculiar cool weather sharks to arrive. These sharks are half fish, half ray and there really is nothing like them. Given they don't grow much larger than a metre or so, drop your gear back to say a 6-8 kilo outfit and have a ball with them! They have small mouths so don't use hooks much bigger than say a 1/0 and keep your bait presentations small.
For elephant sharks soft baits of squid, pipi and pilchard are fine, while for larger species of sharks try slab or whole baits of any locally available fish, or even oily species like tuna etc you've collected beforehand. There's many bait fish to be caught fresh on location also, and if you can collect enough mullet, fresh salmon etc just before you fish for sharks, you'll give yourself the best chance of hooking into a howler. It may be icy cold, but there's nothing like a long battle with a surf shark to warm ya up this cool season - rug up and give it a crack!