Bowfishing has had a large increase in popularity due to its excitement and the wide range of opportunities. The main bowfishing species are common carp as they are found in large numbers throughout the USA. Carp live in rivers, streams, flowages and lakes. And, with bowfishing, along with anything else in life, if you’re looking for something new, try bowfishing … for big sharks!
Not long ago Mathew and Jeff decided took their bowfishing skills to the Pacific Ocean after the fast swimming, open water Mako Shark. They contacted Matt Potter of Break-A-Way Charters in Hunting Beach, California and booked a two day off-shore shark trip for July.
Jeff has taken shark in the past but those were in-shore journeys with the use of float systems and were only a 30 minute boat ride to the location. On this journey they had to travel six hours off-shore in water depths reaching up to 2 miles — so the use of floats was out of the question. The gear they took on this adventure included the popular AMS Fire Eagle bows and AMS Tigershark arrows tipped with a tough 3 barb grapple. They used a 1000 lb wire leader tied to a ring system that attached to the arrow. The leader and line was then attached to a big game fishing pole.
Just like any big game hunt it can involve long hours, practice with the bow and fish arrow and a little luck. Imagine a heavy fishing arrow being shot with a 1000 lb wire attached to it. It drops dramatically.
Day One of our shark bowhunt began at 3am when everyone meeting at the marina. We watched as the Hollywood shoreline disappeared and turned into blue water and sky.
Once we arrived at the captain’s location at 9am everyone was keyed-up. We had no idea how much work was involved in a shark trip? Chumming for sharks is done non-stop while hundreds of seagulls descend and fill their bellies with chum. On Day One we saw plenty of seagulls and water, but had no shark sightings. The six hour ride back to the marina lasted forever.
Plans were made for Day Two with a departure time of 2am as Mako Matt wanted to make a longer run to some new water.
When the alarm buzzed at 1am it was hard to get out of bed. But we did and arrived at our fishing location at 8:00 am. Mako Matt went to work on what he calls a ‘Power Chum’. He mixed up a couple hundred pounds of bait and began laying down a heavy chum line. Over the the course of the day we had a few seals and porpoises swam by to grab a bite to eat — but no sharks.
- Location: Huntington Beach, California
- Hunters: Mathew Schillinger and Jeff Braun of AMS Bowfishing
- Guide: Matt Potter (Mako Matt) Break-A-Way Charters
- Targeted Species: Mako Shark
Our hopes were dwindling when suddenly Mathew yelled and said something big was swimming directly under the boat. Everybody jumped into action but the excitement was short lived as it was only a large Ocean Sunfish.
Around 2:00pm Mako Matt remarked that the seagulls were acting funny and told everybody to get ready. A pointed shark fin broke the ocean’s surface. A Mako was cutting through the chum straight toward the boat. Mathew sounded out, “I’ll take it”.
The Maco shark passed the boat 3 times before offering a good shot. Mathew released his bowfishing arrow and it struck the shark behind the head. A brief fight later we had our first Mako shark. Mathew was all excited and said, “It might not be the biggest shark but how many people can say they’ve shot a Mako Shark with a bow”?
Two hours remained before the trip was over and Jeff was anxious for his turn. He didn’t wait long because a second Mako appeared. Jeff and his Fire Eagle bowfishing arrow connected and the fight was on. This shark had a lot of fight in him too, and it took Jeff 35 minutes to get him to the boat.
Two Mako sharks with the bow … in a matter of minutes. Mako Matt announced that we still had 30 minutes of chum left. So I’m thinking to myself, ‘We’ve been chumming like crazy for 2 days and saw two sharks, what could possibly happen in 30 minutes’?
We were down to our last minute of chum when suddenly the seagulls erupted off the water and flew away. Mako Matt scanned the water and grinned, “Get ready boys, I see something big coming”.
Suddenly a dark torpedo shape emerged on the right side of the boat! It violently grabbed the chum pump with its teeth. I couldn’t believe the size of this shark and how quickly it could disappear and then reappear out of nowhere.
Excitedly, Mako Matt blurted out that we should hook this fish because this Mako was just too big for an arrow. Matt thought this fish could tip the state record of 1200lbs. He had regularly taken fish up to 500# with a bow but had limited success with fish larger than that, as the savage fights of larger Mako’s were extra long and their hide was unable to hold the fish point.
Quickly, Jeff gaffed the monster Mako shark with a stout pole and attempted to boat it. Immediately, another big Mako shark appeared … and another. We were surrounded by Mako sharks! Everyone heard Mako Matt yell “Whatever you do, don’t fall in the water”.
Matt set a bait and threw it in the water and we all watched the monster Mako grab the bait and swim under the boat. Mako Matt told Jeff, “Set the hook … and make sure to set it 4 or 5 times more,” and he added, “and then hang on.”
Matt yelled “Set it, Harder, Harder, Harder”. Then all we could hear was the bizarre sound of the drag as the line raced off the reel and hundreds of yards of fishing line sped off the spool in seconds. It was now 4:00pm and our shark battle had just begun.
Minutes ticked into hours and after 3 hours we finally could see the monster Mako again. We attempted to bring him in for the gaff but the shark made a great run and was back out into the deep. Another hour into the battle we finally had the shark close enough to the boat to tie it off.
Because of the size of the shark we had to drag it all the way back to the marina. We arrived at 12:30am and only then did we get to see how big this giant shark truly was. At 10 ½ feet long with a 5 foot girth he tipped the scale at a whopping 750lbs. This was truly the catch of a lifetime.
We flew back home with what shark meat we could take on the plane, 150 lbs of some of the finest meat I have ever tasted, with the rest being donated to a local church. We also have the jaws from all the sharks as mementos from this exciting adventure. We will be back out to visit Mako Matt in the future but next time it’s gonna be strictly bowfishing gear.
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