Shark Fishing Cape Cod

Big fish fishing. Jaws. We’re gonna need a bigger boat. Shark week. If any of these things gets the blood flowing, keep reading. If you keep reeling in half-fish or keep getting cut off and want to be ready…Keep reading. If you like eating swordfish and have heard that shark tastes much the same, keep reading. If you’re wondering why I regularly keep 100 shark hooks and rigs ready to go…this page will be for you.

Shark Tournament largest shark
We hooked and landed this shark in a tournament and won “largest shark”

I remember the first shark that we didn’t see…as a kid, I fished in Buzzards Bay for blues, flounder, fluke, and scup. We used heavy tackle back then…I used to be able to reel in a lobster trap with the gear we used for flounder. I’m not kidding. It was HEAVY gear. Heavy line. It was fun; we fished all the time and didn’t care. I remember one day hooking into something huge by the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal…It dragged around our little 12′ boat until it finally broke off. It was probably a shark…It realistically could have been a sand tiger, sandbar, or even a big ray. But I digress.. It was awesome to feel that strength.

That story reminds me of “Mighty Mouse.” My first real boat, a 17′ bowrider opened the world to me for fishing. I used to take that boat east of Stellwagen for cod and haddock in the late 90’s and early 00’s… We found an area that was loaded with haddock one day and my friend Roy was reeling in a monster something for 30 minutes.. I had a gaff ready. One of those hockey stick gaffs. You know, something unacceptable by today’s standards. The rod was doubled over as the fish was coming up for the last few feet. Right before we were able to see it and unbeknownst to us, the shark pulled a haddock off of the jig and swam away EXACTLY as we were able to see the top hook that was holding a 5# haddock. It was if there was never anything BUT a 5# haddock.. He was dumbfounded. “How could that little fish pull so hard?” Thus, we called it “Mighty Mouse”. But, a few thousand sharks later…I think I know what happened.

Shark barely hooked off of Cape Cod
Circle hooks and shark fishing

And by “a few thousand”..I’ve seen a lot of sharks. I love the reaction that people have when they see a shark. Sometimes, while fishing for haddock, guys are like “not interested. We can’t eat them (blue sharks) so I don’t want to waste time fighting them.” Ok, that’s fine here. Other times, everything gets put on hold when a shark arrives. The battle begins and we put off everything until the shark is boat side. If we are “meat fishing” and a porbeagle or thresher comes around, all bets are off. Those two sharks are delicious and meat in the cooler is meat in the cooler.

thresher shark tail print
This is a great piece of art on our wall!

We had one summer of haddock fishing and the porbeagles were everywhere. I mean, I know I landed 50+ of them one summer. It was insane. I like seeing them; at first you have to say “is it a great white?” Nowadays, you also have to say “is it a mako?” That is easier as makos are more blue than grey. The porbeagle and great white are similarly shaped and colored, minus the one big tell: A porbeagle has a distinct white patch at the back of the dorsal fin.

kids love shark fishing
Kids can easily fight sharks off of Cape Cod if they have some heart!

We were fishing for porbeagles one day and Richie was mating for me (he was about 11 or 12)….Not his first rodeo, but still a kid. We had a good shark on east of Chatham and I thought it would be a porbeagle. Half an hour into the battle we are making headway and the customer is fighting from the bow and Richie asks “can I harpoon it?” “Absolutely.” I say.

As the shark gets closer, I reinforce the mantra “we don’t just throw the harpoon at color.” I say “if you don’t see a white patch at the back of the dorsal fin, do not throw it!” I am saying it for both the customers and for Richie. As soon as we got color, Richie says “nope, its huge and I don’t have a white patch. Get up here!” He was right…it was a small great white, though still much bigger than the porbeagle we were expecting. We snapped some great photos and I pulled the hook and it swam off. A week earlier, I had seen a great white in the same area as we had two giant tuna hanging off of cleats bleeding out..

Great white shark off of Chathma
juvenile great white shark off of Chatham

One of the great things about shark fishing is the simple aspect of “making your bed and sleeping in it, comfortably.” That is to say, I find an area that I want to fish, check on the current and tides for the next 5 or so hours, and shut the boat down and start drifting. Peace. We set up a chum slick to bring the sharks to us and then we wait. Not even patiently. We just wait. We talk. We laugh and tell stories. It’s a huge part of shark fishing. The chum and baits get deployed and everyone is brought up to speed with the basics. There isn’t a rush, as I tell them “we typically wait 90 minutes for the sharks to find us.” If we get one before that, we are lucky because there must have been one really close.

Thresher sharks are beautiful
Cape Cod Thresher shark

Shark fishing around Cape Cod used to entail 50-wides or even bigger rods on some boats. Ive used 80’s a couple of times, but only when I was using really big live bait under a kite or balloon and when I thought a giant tuna was a possibility. Now we typically use 15’s, 16’s, and even 5’s for sharks, depending on the angler. Maybe a 50 as well. But the smaller gear is more fun.

Porbeagle sharks on Cape Cod
Catching haddock, then a porbeagle shark attacks

Here’s my speech to everyone about what to do when the sharks arrive: “Grab the rod with your left hand and, with your right hand, slide the Cush-It onto the bottom of the rod. Rest the Cush-it on your left hip bone. Bump the drag to “strike” and start reeling. When the line comes tight, reel faster and faster. Set the hook really hard; holding the rod straight up. Reel the rod back down until it’s pointing at the fish and set the hook again. Battle is now on.”

One of the biggest thresher sharks we have landed
We landed a big thresher shark on Stellwagen Bank

Why the specifics? If you don’t use the cush-it, the bottom of the rod is going to dig into your hip or….why the left hip? So it’s not the groin AND when you pull the rod straight back hard, it passes your face to your left. I had a guy once position the rod in the groin (the nuts) and pulled it straight back into the middle of his face. Sore nuts and sore face. Hilarious, but unnecessary.

Porbeagle tail print
300# porbeagle tail print caught off of Cape Cod

I think that one of the big reasons a lot of people shy away from shark fishing on their own boats is the worry when the shark gets boatside. There are two things you do then: you release it or you decide to keep it. Most of the sharks that we catch around Cape Cod are released. Without hedging your bets, you’ll be releasing 90% of the sharks you catch, maybe more than that as they’ll be blue shark, brown sharks or something else. I’ve always used circle hooks with sharks as they usually catch the shark in the corner of the cheek, not in the stomach or throat. Many years ago I was told by the head scientist for shark biology in the state that circle hooks rust out of a shark’s mouth within a couple of weeks. Nice. A quick, temporary piercing. I just cut the shark leader wire as close to the hook as possible. That part is easy. ish….

Ish….when you’re releasing a shark, everyone has to be on the same page: the battle isn’t over until the wire is cut and the shark swims away. Many times I’ve leadered the shark boatside only to have it go nuts and swim away before I could cut the wire. I’ll yell, “No!” and throw the leader away from the boat. The angler has to be ready for that: Two hands on the rod, line not wrapped around the rod or someone on board. Get ready for some heavy weight and an angry shark. Reel it in again and repeat. Some times people get all happy when they see me grab the leader, thinking that it’s the end. Not yet…wait til it swims away..

Sand tiger shark
sand tiger sharks are more common than you would think

To cut the wire, I have two photos here.. All three cutters will cut wire…One is practically useless and the other two cut perfectly well. Let me explain: If you go buy a pair of wire cutters, chances are you’ll get the first one, simply a pair of pointy wire cutters and they cut wire really well. The problem, if you look closely, is that there is a small circle where the blades meet. 95% of the time the wire will slide into that hole and you won’t be able to cut it effectively and quickly. DON’T HAVE THEM ON THE DECK. The other two: The ones that look like pliers AND a wire cutter are the best all-around tool and you’ll need the plier part for making shark leaders and putting hooks on a wire leader. They cut well, are inexpensive, and you need them anyways. Plan on dropping more than your fair share into the ocean. Lastly, if you can find them, buy them. They are called Tri-Shears and they will run $50-$75. They are worth every penny. They are super easy to use and they cut with the flex of a muscle. For rookies they are a game changer. They are very easy to slide OVER the wire and then to slide DOWN the wire “until you get nervous near the teeth”.

Three types of wire cutters for sharks
Don’t use the one on the left
Dont' use these wire cutters for shark
I’ve used all types of wire cutters.

I like to cut the wire as close to the shark as possible, A: for the shark so it doesn’t drag wire around and B: To reuse the shark leader. I start off at 8′ and will use it until there is only about 3′ left. I can get four or five sharks on one leader before I have to switch it out. I can retie a hook onto an existing leader faster than I can take a new leader out of the tackle station and reattach to the snap swivel!

Winning thresher shark in Monster shark tournament
big thresher shark caught off of Cape Cod

Well, shark fishing to me is fun. Shark week programming in the middle of summer gets people excited. Excited to see the sharks. Excited to feel their strength. Hooking a mako and seeing it swim 40 mph and jump 15 feet into the air several times. That’s something that you don’t see every day. And it’s not uncommon to hook 10-20 sharks in a day’s worth of fish. So, with several people on board, chances are everyone will do it multiple times. Seeing different species is amazing as well. In the past 20 years, we have seen blue sharks, makos, threshers, porbeagles, great whites, hammerheads, dusky, sandbar, sand tiger, basking sharks, spiny dogfish, and smooth dogfish.

mako shark jumping
Mako shark jumping on Cape Cod

Cooking shark it easy. Grill steaks as you would do to swordfish. Same way. Or cut into chunks and fry. Or saute. Or mix into a curry dish. Or skewer on shish-kebabs. Or chunk into a stew or soup. It’s easy; shark freezes really well. I like freezing it in steaks on parchment paper, then vacuum sealing it. It’ll last two years easily like that. Remember: giving shark away is ok! You’re going to have a lot of it.

Prime time for shark fishing around Cape Cod is June, July, August, September, and October. Keep following me for more videos, photos, and tips. If you want to schedule a trip, call or text me at 508-269-1882 or email me at Thanks for reading!