The leopard shark is one of the most popular sharks to fish for off the coast of California. Known for their spots and docile temperament, these sharks are relatively easy to catch and make for a fun day out on the water.
If you’re thinking about going leopard shark fishing, here are tips to help you have a successful day.
1. Choose the Right Bait
Leopard sharks are bottom-feeders, so live bait that can be fished near the bottom of the water column is best. Popular baits include squid, anchovies, and sardines.
2. Use a Heavy Rig
A heavy rig is necessary to keep your bait near the bottom where the leopard sharks will be feeding. A typical rig consists of a 3-way swivel, a two-foot leader, and a 5/0 circle hook.
3. Fish in an Area with Structure
Leopard sharks tend to congregate around areas of natural or man-made structures such as reefs, kelp beds, or piers. These areas provide them with food and shelter, so they are good places to start your search for leopard sharks.
4. Chumming Can Be Helpful
Chum is any type of bait that is used to attract fish. When chumming for leopard sharks, it is best to use chopped-up baitfish or fish oil mixed with water. You can purchase commercially prepared chum or make your own by following a recipe online.
5. Be Patient When Waiting for a Bite
Leopard sharks are not the most active of fish and they often take their time when biting onto the bait. It is important to be patient and wait for a sharp tug on the line before setting the hook . . . otherwise, you may just end up catching seaweed!
6. Use Gloves When Handling Leopard Sharks
Although they are not considered dangerous to humans, leopard sharks have small teeth that can cause cuts or scrapes if you’re not careful when handling them. Wearing gloves will protect your hands and make releasing the shark back into the water easier.
7. Take Pictures and Measurement Quickly
Once you have safely landed a leopard shark, take some quick measurements (total length and girth) as well as a few pictures if possible before releasing it back into the water . . . otherwise, it may not survive long enough to be caught again!
8. Use Barbless Hooks When Possible
Barbless hooks will make it easier to release the shark if you decide not to keep it and will also minimize damage to the fish itself . . . which is always a good thing!
9. Be Respectful of Other Anglers and Boaters
Nobody likes having their fishing spot “poached” by another angler, so be respectful of other people’s space while out on the water. The same goes for boaters; always give them plenty of space and never try to block their passage.
10. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen
Just because you’re out on the water doesn’t mean you won’t get sunburned. Make sure to apply sunscreen generously before heading out and re-apply as needed throughout the day.
These tips should help you have a successful day out on the water chasing after these spotted predators.
As always, be respectful of other anglers as well as boaters while out enjoying our wonderful coastline. And last but not least—don’t forget your sunscreen! Tight lines!