Does Surf Fishing Attract Sharks?

You’ve fished in many lakes, rivers, and streams over the years, and soon, you’ll expand your horizons. A buddy asked you to go surf fishing at a nearby beach. You’re excited but also concerned, as you’ve heard that surf fishing can attract sharks. Is it true?

Surf fishing can increase your likelihood of seeing a shark, as the creatures like the vibrations of hooks going through a fish. Offal is also easy shark food. To avoid sharks, use artificial lures and stay away from areas where you see dolphins and/or porpoises, as sharks can be close.

This guide will delve into the ins and outs of surf fishing and explain how this oceanside activity can drive up the number of sharks in the area. We’ll also discuss what to look out for to confirm a shark and how to stay safe in the presence of one.

Does Surf Fishing Lure in Sharks? Why?

To start, let’s explain surf fishing a bit and where its propensity lies for attracting sharks.

Surf fishing is a sport that requires the angler to either stand in the ocean (just in the surf) or right on the shoreline. You can also fish from a fishing pier or rock jetty, but most anglers engage in this style of fishing from the beach in saltwater bodies.

Although anglers usually cast extensive distances when surf fishing, this isn’t mandatory. Anglers only need a fishing line up to 18 feet long, which goes to show that this isn’t exactly fly fishing we’re talking about here.

So where does the risk lie in surf fishing? Here are some potentially dangerous parts of this sport that can attract sharks. 

Hooking a Fish

Sharks are incredibly intelligent sea creatures that deserve a lot more credit in this area. 

For example, sharks possess a lateral line system. This system includes a series of canals that go just under the shark’s skin. The canals travel across its head and on the sides of the shark’s body. The canals, by the way, are filled with fluid. 

Near the lateral line are pores that can read the water, so to speak. The shark can then determine which prey may be nearby based on vibrations.

When you go surf fishing and that glorious moment happens when your hook penetrates a fish, it might not be quite as glorious as it seems. Depending on the force of the impact, a shark can read the vibration. 

Even if the shark didn’t notice the fish before, now they do. You’ve attracted their interest, and with their interest usually comes their presence.

Keep in mind that in crowded waters with a lot of anglers, the multitude of vibrations is going to be most appealing to a shark.  

Blood in the Water

An expert angler can avoid rupturing a fish’s gills with their hook so hemorrhages don’t occur, but again, you don’t know the skill level of your fellow surf fishing anglers. They could be complete beginners or more seasoned pros.

With even a few drops of blood in the water, sharks can usually smell it. We mean a few drops; even one particle per million or ppm is typically enough to do it. The shark can smell the blood from a quarter of a mile away in some cases.

Now, it’s not necessarily that the scent of blood turns the shark into a crazy beast hellbent on feeding. That said, blood = food most of the time, so the shark is going to turn up hungrier. 

Proximity to the Shore

Do you know why sharks attack humans? It’s because most species, especially the great white, can’t see all that well. 

Sharks have a varied diet that includes mollusks, crustaceans, fishes, other sharks, and seals. The shark can’t tell if you’re a shark or a seal, so it takes a bite.

The closer you are to the shore when a shark is spotted in the area, the more danger you’re in.  When a shark hasn’t eaten and you look like a part of its diet, you could be injured or killed. 

Shark-Human Connection

Going back to what we said about sharks being smart creatures, they’re capable of forming associations with certain things. 

For instance, if a shark has been fed by people in the past, then it’s going to see you and assume you will feed it.

If you see a shark barreling towards you, you have no idea why it’s coming your way. In this case, it wouldn’t be to attack but to mooch a free meal.

That’s why it’s never a wise idea to feed a shark, be that at a park, the ocean, or anywhere. All you’re doing is establishing the shark-human connection or solidifying it. 

The shark will continue to think it can get food from humans, and this can pose a highly risky situation for someone else later down the line. 

Live Food

Sharks prefer live food, so if you’re a fan of live bait, an afternoon of surf fishing could bring the sharks your way. Granted, a few shrimps or crayfish are hardly enough to feed a hungry shark, but the shark doesn’t know that when it investigates.  

How to Identify a Shark in the Water

While sharks will raise their dorsal fins above the surface at times, that’s not always a reliable way to detect a shark. Here’s what we recommend instead.

Check the Water If It’s Clear

In a best-case scenario, the ocean you’re surf fishing in will be clear enough that you can see down to your toes as you linger in the surf. This way, if a shark passes through, it will be to no one’s surprise, as the creature will be easily visible. 

Try not to panic if you see a shark in clear water, even if every fiber of your being tells you to freak out. Thrashing and screaming could attract the shark even if the creature was going to pass you by.

Plus, in clear water, sharks can see better. They’ll have a better sense of what’s food versus what isn’t, so attacks are less likely to happen. 

Watch the Birds and Fish 

When sharks are in the area, the entire food chain is momentarily disrupted. Birds will change their behavior, and not for the better. They could start diving to avoid the sharks. Fish will jump as well to prevent themselves from becoming the shark’s next meal! 

Take Heed If You Spot a Dolphin or Porpoise 

Witnessing a dolphin is usually a wondrous thing, especially if you’re several feet back safely on the shore. The presence of a dolphin (or porpoise) could indicate a shark though. As is the case with smaller fish and birds, the creature is trying to avoid being lunch. 

Tips for Avoiding Sharks When Surf Fishing

Everything we’ve talked about to this point isn’t meant to dissuade you from surf fishing, but rather, to help you make smarter, safer decisions. The following tips are presented in that same vein, as they may help you avoid sharks as you enjoy the sport of surf fishing. 

Use Artificial Lures

We’ve already established that sharks eat crustaceans and that the smell of these animals could be one of several factors that can lure a shark towards you. Thus, to avoid giving sharks a tantalizing bite of bait, it’s best to use artificial lures.

As we wrote about in our post comparing live bait to artificial lures, the latter has no smell. This is good for warding off sharks, but it can hinder your fishing success. Many species of fish like the smell of live bait.

By using high-quality lures and mimicking a live bait’s natural movements with your lure, you won’t leave empty-handed. 

Nothing Flashy, Please

Most types of artificial lures are fine for catching fish when surf fishing, but we’d tell you to refrain from jigs or spinnerbaits especially. These lures generate flashes of light, which are designed to incentivize the fish to come check out what’s going on.

To a shark, those light flashes look like the sunlight glinting off a fish’s reflective scales. The shark will likely make a beeline towards you. 

It’s for that reason that you should refrain from wearing any kind of sparkly jewelry too, especially if you’re standing in the water and surf fishing. 

Consider Fishing from a Jetty

Unless in rare instances, sharks don’t really come out of the water. Should they make an exit, they can’t get very far. Thus, the further you are from the shoreline when surf fishing, the better. 

Of course, it’s not surf fishing if you’re miles from the ocean, but you can at least consider fishing from a jetty rather than the shoreline if sharks have recently been spotted in the area. 

Don’t Fish Near Piers 

Although a pier seems like a safe place to rest your tacklebox and settle in for a long day of fishing, we wouldn’t recommend it. Struggling fish can linger here, as can bait that comes loose off an angler’s hook.

The pier can also be home to offal, which are various fish chunks and other assorted pieces of formerly living creatures. All this food will surely get a shark curious, and you don’t want to be in the area when the shark comes through! 

Avoid Hemorrhaging the Fish

Although experts disagree to precisely what extent sharks can smell blood, they can do it, nevertheless. You want to keep your day of surf fishing as bloodless as possible, and that means cleanly piercing the fish with your hook. 

Don’t Fish Early in the Morning or After Dusk 

Our last tip is this: skip the early surf fishing trips and don’t fish once the sun goes down either. 

There are two reasons for this. For starters, sharks are most active during these periods, and who wants to share the water with an active shark? Second, visibility is also worse without sunlight, so it’s harder to spot a shark until it’s very close. 

Final Thoughts 

Surf fishing can be a nice change of pace for river or lake anglers, but it comes with its own additional set of risks, namely sharks. By being a smart and conscientious angler, you can avoid sharks. Stay safe out there!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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