Catch a Leaping Shark

By: Terry Gibson


It’s “winter” here in the Sunshine state, and as usual for January we’re enjoying a week or so of cool temperatures ranging from a light frost in the morning to T-shirt weather by noon.

My buddy Capt. Scott Hamilton loves this weather more than any angler I know. He’s got some awesome photos on his Facebook Page, where he recently posted the following:

Perfect!!!Cold,(for S.Fl....close to freezing Friday AM!) and stiff North Winds....exactly what we needed to really get the fishing hopping here. Looking forward to action with Sailfish and Spinner Sharks...just to name a few....

I’ve known Scott since I was a teenager and he was a young guide just starting out and determined to make a career of guiding only fly fishermen.

Frankly, I never thought he’d make it being such a purist, but he has, and in the course of a career spanning almost three decades Scott has pioneered or helped pioneered fly fishing for species that few people had ever imagined targeting with such tackle. One of his specialties -- and I think his favorite species to target - -is the spinner shark.

During the winter, huge schools of spinner and blacktip sharks migrate into the clear blue waters off Palm Beach County from Lake Worth to Jupiter, more or less. You see them free-vaulting into the air for reasons no one quite understands. A small cadre of devotees likes to chum the fish in range with a sliced open barracuda, jack or bonito. These speedy sharks come in fast, and you have to make a pinpoint presentation with a large orange “chum” fly. When you strike one, the fish will run for hundreds of yards, usually making numerous spinning leaps. Frankly, they make tarpon seem like a pretty tame fish to catch.

You don’t have to be a fly angler to enjoy this fishery. Some captains dangle live baits under kites, the way we fish for sailfish down here. You can also put a hunk of fish on a circle hook with a floating cork just above the wire leader. That always works.

The fish are in town generally from about Christmas Eve to the Ides of March. Give Scott or or Jupiter Fishing Headquarters a call and come experience the light-tackle fight of a lifetime.

More By Terry Gibson


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