• Published:June 26, 2017
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Spend five minutes with Capt. Jorge Valverde and you'll realize he's not a wait-and-see kind of guy.

Quick-witted and constantly observing his shallow-water environment, the high-energy South Florida guide believes in taking the game to the fish, even those that'll usually come to you.
We’re talking about sharks and Valverde’s approach flies in the face of traditional tactics. While most anglers are content to toss out a chunk of fresh-caught barracuda or ladyfish, place the rod in a holder and wait for the big bend, Valverde hunts his toothy targets with the same stealth he applies to stalking bonefish and permit.

WHERE TO LOOK




From the pristine flats of Biscayne Bay on Florida’s southeast coast, to the Marquesas shallows off of Key West, and up to the barrier islands off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, coastal sharks will often push into the shallow water in search of crustaceans and small bait. These streamlined predators can cover impressive distances in a day, but Valverde finds a few consistent features.

“They tend to like shallow, sheltered areas out of the wind that will keep the water warmer,” he says. “A lot of times, sharks will get up a lot shallower than bonefish (in south Florida). Sometimes, you’ll see them with their backs completely out of the water.”

Edges of flats and islands tend to be the more consistent zones, as you’ll find sharks coming and going. Falling tides force them off the flats, while incoming water grants them access to new feeding areas.
"A lot of times, sharks will get up a lot shallower than bonefish. Sometimes, you'll see them with their backs completely out of the water."
-- Capt. Jorge Valverde
“They can be hard to spot because they don’t create a lot of commotion,” he says. “You have to be able to spot that brown shape, that shadow in the water. It’s a hunting technique.I like to pole into position, but if you see sharks moving through an area, stake out ahead of them, wait and then make a presentation. It’s a lot easier and you’re not pushing a pressure wake and the fish aren’t sensing anything.”

BAIT

For simplicity, convenience and accessibility, it’s hard to top fresh shrimp for small coastal sharks. To maximize these tasty crustaceans, Valverde bites off the shrimp’s tail fins. Some captains pinch and rip, but he trusts his teeth for a clean cut that keeps more of the shrimp’s tail intact for a secure hook placement.

Velverde inserts a 1/0 Mustad 32807NP-BN or 2/0 10841NP-BN hook into the shrimp’s tail with the shank on the bait’s underside. This allows him to feed the hook naturally into the shrimp. Once the shrimp reaches about halfway up the shank, he rotates the point and brings tip out the opposite side.

This leaves the hook facing upward, while hiding it along the bait’s profile. Also, such positioning keeps the shrimp in an upright, natural position.

TACKLE

Preferring a medium-heavy spinning outfit with a light tip, Valverde links his monofilament main line to a 6- to 9-inch piece of wire with an Albright knot and uses a haywire twist to affix the hook to the wire’s terminal end. This setup provides resistance to sharp teeth.

Sharks are bold creatures, but even these feisty predators don’t like the feel of a boat’s pressure wake, the sound of hull slap and the imposing image of a form much larger than theirs closing in on them. The extra casting distance that wire affords keeps your bait in the safe zone away from any boat noise. Additionally, wire sinks the bait without the concentrated splash of a split shot.

PRESENTATION

With a shark in sight, Valverde employs a technique he calls “crossing the T.”

“You throw the bait past the fish the same distance you are away from it and then drag it very slowly across the surface with a mild wake,” he says. “You don’t want to drag it too fast, because that startles them. This makes the bite very interactive. People can see it happen; they watch the shark follow the bait and eat it. It’s very cool to see.”

Dragging a shrimp with a vented backside also appeals to the shark’s keenest sensory points, smell. “The shark’s visual acuity is not good, but they detect motion and scent, so you have those two things going in this presentation,” Valverde says. “Again, you don’t want to drag the bait too fast because the sharks aren’t used to seeing a shrimp swim really fast.”

“You want the bait to look like it’s barely making a wake on the surface by keeping your rod tip up and bringing it slowly through the water,” he adds. “Sharks sense that and they’ll key in on that movement and smell.”

Once he drags his bait even with the shark’s nose, Valverde pauses his retrieve and lets that wire leader escort the shrimp to the bottom. This is the point at which anxiety often drives overzealous response. “People usually want to drag the bait a little faster when the shark approaches, but if you do that, they’ll usually turn tail and run,” he says.

As Valvede notes, not all sharks are programmed the same. Bonnetheads and hammerheads are built with broad sensory units made for locating bottom-roaming prey, so they they may be less responsive to crossing the T. Conversely, upward-looking blacktips, bulls, lemons and spinner sharks respond better to this technique.

“Ninety percent of the time, when you’re dragging a bait through the water, the only thing that’s actually in the water is the bait,” Valverde said. “Even that piece of wire is just on the surface, so it could pass for an antennae. They don’t even notice it.”

Knowing his quarry’s mood helps him adjust his approach accordingly. When sharks zip around with an obviously unsettled vibe, you’ll want to keep your distance and minimize your movements. Conversely, when you find clusters of sharks thoroughly sweeping a flat with more relaxed postures, they’ll often eat a bait one rod length off the boat.

“Some days, they’re spookier than others. Some days, they’re very aggressive,” he says. “It varies from day to day, just like any other species.”

To book a trip with Capt. Jorge Valverde visit lowplacesguideservice.com.

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