This prairie angler tangled with giant sharks—in the dark!

Sharks after dark

Fishing for these apex predators is tricky. Now imagine doing it at night

Our first stop was just offshore from the famous Waikiki Beach. We were out much farther than where people swim, but right in the middle of an area frequented by catamarans and whale-watching boats during the day. It was eerie—if you looked left, you could see the dim lights of downtown Waikiki and just barely make out the outlines of the hotels and tall buildings; look right, though, and you couldn’t see anything other than a few feet of water illuminated by the ship’s courtesy lights.

In Hawaii, sharks are held in high regard, and anglers are not permitted to chum the waters to attract them. Thanks to commercial fishing fleets cleaning their nets, traps and fish, however, the sharks have been conditioned to associate the sound of a boat with a quick, easy meal. They’ll basically come right up to the boat to check things out.

Shark bait: smelly tuna steak with a 12/0 hook

For tackle, we were equipped with heavy-duty, five-and-half-foot, custom-made, stand-up tuna-style rods with roller line guides. Paired with the rods were Penn 14/0 reels, spooled with 130-pound-test clear mono. Rounding out the set-up was a swivel connecting the mainline to a four-ounce lead weight and a six-foot, 600-pound-test mono leader tied to a giant 12/0 J-hook. For bait, we were using semi-rotten, dinner-plate-sized tuna steaks.

As quickly as possible, I threaded the hook through the flesh and tough skin of a tuna steak and sent the offering overboard into 70 feet of water. Once the weight hit bottom, I turned the handle three times to suspend it just above the rocks and coral, and waited for a strike.

In the darkness, my other senses tried to compensate for the limited visibility. Every sound seemed amplified. Whenever I heard someone moving on the deck, I’d whirl around to see if they were into a shark. My sense of feel seemed enhanced, and each time the waves lifted and dropped the ship, I’d grip my rod tighter, as I was sure it was a shark grabbing my bait. And with the bait’s pungent aroma lingering in my nostrils, I had total confidence in my offering.

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