Shore fishing for Bronze Whaler Shark
Bronze Whaler Sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus), also known as Copper Sharks, are a sought-after game fish for recreational anglers in many parts of the world. They are known for their impressive strength and fighting abilities, which pose a challenge for anglers. These sharks can reach up to 11 feet (3.3 meters) in length and can weigh as much as 500 pounds (227 kilograms). For a more detailed description of this species, please refer to this link.
The subject matter of this article is not directly related to my usual themes of bushcraft, survival, foraging, or simple living. Catching Bronze Whaler Shark through shore angling requires the use of strong and modern equipment, as these sharks are located far out in the ocean and exert a brutal force when hooked, making it impossible to catch them with primitive tackle. However, I have included this article in my “Fishing Skills” series as it was a unique and unforgettable experience for me to catch such a magnificent creature and release it back into the ocean unharmed.
Rangemap of Bronze Whaler sharks (Wikipedia, free license)
Location where shark fishing was conducted
The Namibian Skeleton Coast is home to one of the largest populations of Bronze Whaler sharks in the world. This coast benefits from the cold and nutrient-rich Benguela current of the Southern Atlantic, which flows from north to south along the coastline. Additionally, the hot Namib desert located directly behind the coast creates heavy morning fogs and overcast weather. This results in cold, windy, and clammy air in the area, while the water is outright chilly. The long sandy beaches south of Henties Bay, combined with heavy wave action, make it an ideal location for fishing these large fish, as there are few snags on the sandy bottom.
Bronze Whaler shark typically patrol the shoreline along the continental shelf, which is on average around 200-250 meters from the coastline. They search for swarms of herrings (such as sardines and pilchards), smaller sharks and skates, as well as invertebrates around the drop-off line.
The best time and location for fishing these sharks is when the sea has got a “pea-soup” appearance. This is characterized by a greenish color of the water with protein foam on the beach, which is a clear indication of masses of plankton. This, in turn, attracts lots of bait fish and their predators. The fish are most likely to be found where the water is darker. This is when it is time to unpack the heavy surfcasting tackle and bait.
Tackle used for shark fishing south of Henties Bay
Rods used for Bronze Whaler shark fishing from the beach are typically one-piece and around 14 feet in length. As bait delivery for sharks is done by drone, the same rod can be used for heavy Kob or Steenbras fishing. Bigger diameter guides are an advantage for gaining extra yards when surfcasting with this rod. The reels are positioned very low down at the end of the rod, as seen in the attached photo. Additionally, a “Bionic Finger” is typically used to release the line when casting.
When shark fishing, it is necessary to use sturdy and heavy reels that are saltwater-proof, have at least 7 bearings, a good brake system, and a large spool capacity. In this case, the time-tested Penn Spinfisher V 10500 reel with HT-100 Slammer drag system was used and worked beautifully.
The rigging process for Bronze Whaler shark fishing is shown in the attached sketch, with specifications included in the accompanying table.
The rig is essentially a wire trace rig, consisting of a braided casting line that connects via a heavy-duty swivel to a mono shock leader. A side arm with a sputnik sinker can slide freely up and down on this mono line. The lower end of the shock leader is connected with a Double-Uni knot to a nylon-coated wire leader, which holds the #12/0 circle hook.
The Sputnik sinker is used to prevent the bait from moving too much on the sandy bottom. The stainless steel arms of the sinker lock in place and anchor in the sand, ensuring that the bait stays in place. When pulling the line, the arms of the sinker snap back, allowing for easy retrieval.
To catch Bronze Whaler sharks, it’s important to use big and bloody bait. A good choice is to cut a 2” / 5cm wide steak from a long and slender fish with big bloodlines on the sides and fatty meat. If the bait is frozen, it’s even better because thawing releases more olfactory teasers. Big mackerels are a good option for this reason.
Before connecting the bait to the hook, a floating device (also called Dingle-Dangle) should be inserted into the bait. This will slightly lift the bait from the seabed, making it more visible and easier for the sharks to bite into. Additionally, the floating device allows the smell of the bait to spread over a larger area. Dingle-Dangles can be homemade or purchased from fishing tackle stores.
After the Dingle-Dangle is inserted into a large piece of bait, it will be wrapped tightly with Latex bait thread. This will ensure that the bait stays in place and doesn’t disintegrate during casting. Finally, a braided nylon line should be used to tie the bait to the hook. By wrapping and stitching the bait in this way, a tight and compact hook-bait bundle is created, making it difficult for the sharks to steal the bait without getting hooked.
Drilling and landing the shark
After delivering the bait to the right location, the fisherman will wait patiently for a shark to take the it. In my case, I waited for about 45 minutes while my colleagues managed to catch three different shark species, making me feel envious. However, our fishing guide, Shane Milne, assured me by saying, “don’t worry, the Bronzies won’t leave any piece of bait untouched.” And he was right.
Hooking the shark
As the line was being slowly pulled out to sea, it became clear that something big had taken the bait. Our fishing guide, Shane, was worried that I might instinctively jerk the rod to try and hook the fish prematurely. However, his previous instructions had prepared me for this moment. I simply allowed the shark to take the bait and swim away with it. The shark kept the bait in its mouth and the circle hook did its job perfectly. The line gradually moved towards one corner of the shark’s mouth, and the hook smoothly slid into the cartilaginous area, hooking the shark securely. Circle hooks have only a tiny barb, but their unique circular shape holds fast and prevents the hook from coming loose.
Drilling the shark
Then came the moment when it was time for “Man & Equipment vs. Beast.” The process involved constantly drilling and then pulling back on the rod, with both actions needing to be separated. The reel was turned only when releasing pressure and lowering the rod. Afterward, hands were off the reel and the rod was pulled back. By this action, unbelievable pressure on all parts of the rig was exerted. This pressure was felt not only on the reel and rod, but also on the lines, swivels, knots. And at the end, on the cartilage of the fish’s mouth. Such a strenuous fight requires the best equipment, as well as the knowledge and skillfulness of the fishing guide who prepares and provides the whole rig. Shane deserves all the praise for his expertise.
The battle with the shark lasted for one hour, during which I applied the highest possible pressure to the fish. However, the Bronzie seemed unfazed and repeatedly pulled off line with immense force. Eventually, the shark started getting closer, and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t use my hands anymore. To shorten the distance between the fish and the coastline, I had to put the rod inside my elbow and walk back into the desert. My two colleagues and Shane did not offer any help, and instead, Shane just remarked, “You wanted it like that.”
I managed to utilize the wave actions to bring the fish closer with less strain and was finally able to beach it. The whole experience was physically and mentally exhausting, but it was all worth it in the end.
Releasing the shark
The shark was measured from the tip of the snout to the groove in front of the tail fin in a straight line. And Shane announced that this was a Bronzie weighing around 110 kg. This is considered a good size for this species.
Shane took out one tooth from the shark as a souvenir, and my wife and colleague took some obligatory photos. Then, with the help of them, I pulled the shark back into deeper water. I was too exhausted from the fight to do it alone. Together, we managed to get the 110 kg Bronze Whaler back into the sea. We moved him back and forth to aerate his gills, and he quickly swam away.
Other shark species caught
In addition to the Bronzie caught by the author, the two colleagues caught a Spotted Gully Shark, three Seven-gilled Cow Sharks, and a juvenile Smooth-hound Shark during the outing. All the fish caught were released back into the sea in good condition.
Bronze Whaler sharks for food
A few days after catching this Bronze Whaler shark, we spoke with a local farmer to inquire about the historical use of sharks as food. According to him, it was common practice in the past to consume all sharks caught along the coast. He himself had eaten parts of a 300 lb. Ragged-tooth shark that his father had caught. Surprisingly, he mentioned that the taste of the meat was comparable to beef, or at least that’s how he described it. However, he emphasized the importance of bleeding and killing the shark immediately upon landing. He cautioned against the common practice of leaving the shark to die under the trailer.
When a shark dies, ammonia is produced as a result of the breakdown of its body cells and the release of enzymes. These enzymes interact with the shark’s urea. Urea is present in high levels in both its tissues and its rectal gland located near the cloaca.
After the shark was quickly killed, it was gutted immediately, and its head, tail, and fins were removed. Freshly caught shark flesh is typically tender and relatively soft. However, as time passes, the flesh begins to firm up, resulting in a tougher texture. Once the meat has “set,” the shark carcass was skinned, filleted, washed in saltwater, and then chilled or frozen.
If shark meat still retained an ammonia odor, it was recommended to soak thin slices of meat in either milk or a diluted vinegar solution for some period of time to remove the smell.
All these information regarding ‘Sharks for Food’ has been documented and written solely for informational purposes. It is strongly advised, to release every shark caught in a healthy state and to observe all governmental fishing regulations.
Lessons learned from catching a Bronze Whaler Shark:
- To catch a Bronze Whaler shark, one needs to possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and equipment.
- Besides of experienced local- and tournament fishermen, all other fishermen should contract a fishing guide professional for success.
- ‘Bronzies’ are beautiful, sleek shaped sharks, that demand the angler’s maximum physical fitness.
- To prevent causing severe injuries in the shark’s mouth corners, it is recommended to only use circle hooks.
- In my opinion, this type of fishing is sustainable for the fish stock. And constitutes a quality tourism highlight in Namibia.
I am grateful to Shane Milne from ‘Aquanaut Tours’ in Swakopmund for providing me with this unforgettable experience. And especially for his professional and reasonably priced services. His website can be opened via this link. And I want to mention that I have not and shall not receive any benefits for this referral. However, I firmly believe that Shane is one of the finest fishing guides in the Swakopmund area.