Capt. Kyle Larson runs charter boats out of Port Canaveral, Florida. Shark fishing trips are just one of the many types of trips he offers. He has also traveled the Bahamas where shark encounters happen daily. We spoke with Kyle to get his thoughts about sharks.
Q:What’s the biggest shark you’ve ever caught?
A: The biggest shark that I’ve ever caught would be a giant hammerhead shark about 10 to 12-feet in length. This hammerhead wasn’t the biggest shark out there but nevertheless an impressive catch on rod and reel!
Q:What’s the biggest you’ve seen?
A: It would have to be the great white shark I saw off of the coast of Cape Canaveral. During the spring of 2011, Canaveral fisherman had over a dozen different sightings of “jaws.” These white sharks were roaming anywhere from forty feet out to the nearby wrecks and reefs. They were not very shy of the boat either!!! They were amongst the bigger ones I’ve seen and measured an easy 12-feet or more!!!
Q:Where have you seen the most sharks?
A: The most sharks that I’ve ever seen in one area would be the puppy blacktips off Canaveral, literally hundreds of 20-inch sharks swarming the boat, eating anything that looked or smelled like food. Although the numbers of those blacktips are hard to beat, I would have to say that Spanish Cay in the Northern Abaco islands of the Bahamas has an unusual and incredible gathering of sharks in their marina. These sharks range from immature to fully grown lemon, blacktip, bull, nurse, reefs sharks and more. These sharks are self-trained to frequent the marina in hopes that fisherman will be cleaning their catch providing an easy meal. Most of theses sharks are 6 plus-feet long and very hungry!
Q:Have you ever been bitten?
A: I have never been bitten by a shark but have had many close calls while handling them on the deck. However, my closest encounter was on a Bahamian reef when I shot a hogfish with a pole spear. I was swarmed by four to six reef sharks within a blink of an eye. Somehow I managed to escape because they are very aggressive sharks.
Q:What species would you call your favorite?
A: From a charter fishing viewpoint, I would say my favorite shark is the blacknose shark because it only grows to 20-40 pounds, which is easy for inexperienced clients to catch. This size is also better to bring aboard and hold for pictures. Personally I admire the mako shark due to their super slick build, crazy set of jaws and agility. Being a rare shark out of Port Canaveral, I would definitely love to capture a mako shark.
Q:What is your least favorite shark?
A: My least favorite shark is the sandbar shark. Being a charter captain as well as commercial fisherman these sharks will repeatedly bite your prized catch in half, whether it’s a sow red snapper or a smoker king. The runner-up least-likeable shark would be the Atlantic sharpnose shark. Although these sharks average probably 20-30-inches long, they are a nuisance. It’s not uncommon to catch over 40 to 50 sharpnoses a day. They will harass you while live bait trolling as well as bottom fishing and to top it off they have the most undesired smell you can think of.
Q:Please tell the story of your most memorable shark encounter?
A: Well for some reason this incident always comes to mind when I think of shark fishing. It was fall time and the weather was awful; twenty knots from the north. spanish mackerel were abundant this certain day and I decided to take both my half day trips in our sheltered bight created by the tip of the Cape. Both the mackerel and shark fishing were incredible. My first trip produced a limit of 3 to 4-pound spanish mackerel and 12 sharks including blacktip, spinner, nurse, blacknose and lemon sharks. The fishing was great, so I took my next party out for the afternoon trip and the fishing was the exactly the same. I was thinking to myself that this never happens!
We caught all of our spanish mackerel and started shark fishing. The spinner sharks were just eating as fast as you could get a bait out. It was literally a “pitch (a bait) and catch” kind of bite. Well in the midst of things I cast out a fresh bait and it slaps the water and instantly gets taken. Well everyone is thinking shark because the 15 prior bites were sharks. This fish stripped 20 yards of line real quick then stopped and surfaced. We saw the fish on the surface and it looked identical to a shark. The clients were laughing and joking about it being another shark until it came straight at the boat. I noticed it was a darker fish. The fish was coming straight at the boat. I instantly grabbed the gaff and stuck this cobia and brought him aboard. By this time, my four clients have decided to drop the rod on deck and sprint for the bow of the boat. They thought I brought an angry shark aboard and being so humored by their actions, I iced the fish, calmed them down and explained to them that they just caught a very respectable cobia. This incident will always be one to remember thanks to the epic shark bite and the day maker cobia!