Where does big game begin in the world of fishing? Is it 100 pounds? Or maybe 200? Even if the number is 300, a little know big game species cruises the waters of Southeast Alaska –
The Salmon Shark
This close relative of the great white and mako comes in shore each summer, following the great schools of pink, coho, and chum salmon. They bite salmon baits, but quickly cut through the leaders. They bite halibut baits and often chew through the leader. If you really want to hook and land one of these beasts that can reach weights well over 300 pounds, you’ll need a wire leader and a strong back. They fight hard and long. If you land one, you’ll find they are good eating like their cousin, the mako.
Size: We’ve caught salmon sharks ranging from 75 pounds to fish in excess of 300 pounds. These fish definitely reach weights up to 500 pounds and there are unconfirmed reports of salmon sharks in excess of 900 pounds. Clearly big enough for big game.
Techniques: Most of the salmon shark we catch are incidental to halibut fishing. They will cruise along the bottom and pick up halibut baits or strike jigs. If a salmon shark is sighted, a bit can be drifted back to it using a balloon to keep the bait up in the water column. A long wire leader is a must when targeting salmon shark as they tend to roll up on the line and the skin is abrasive. Also, they sometimes seem pretty fussy about the bait, preferring a well cut strip bait to something large and bloody. Salmon shark are also rumored to take high speed trolling lures designed for wahoo and they are targeted by salt water fly fishermen.
Gear: A short stout standup tuna rod like we use for halibut is ideal for salmon shark. Rig the rod with a strong conventional reel like we use for halibut and 80 pound braided spectra line and your set. Essentially, this is all the same gear we use when halibut fishing. A long wire leader (at least 6 feet) and a 10/0 to 12/0 circle hook are ideal for presenting the bait.