Summer can be a tough time for anglers in Queensland. There can be weeks of unbearably hot days, followed by periods of cataclysmic downpours that can leave our waterways unfishable.
On top of that, the hot weather can also have the same effect on the fish as it does on humans - sitting motionless out of the sun, trying to get reprieve from the heat. Quite often, the only time predatory fish are active during summer is at periods of low light, which can mean late finishes or super early starts.
There is, however, one sporting target that is readily available along the entire Queensland coast that seems to thrive during the hottest periods of the year.
The humble bull shark, while bearing an undeserved reputation as a killing machine and a menace to our waterways, can actually be great sport during summer. They're big, they pull hard, they jump, they're abundant, and they can be caught at any time of the day - what's not to like? Best of all, with the use of circle hooks, you can release these valuable members of the ecosystem back into the water, and satisfy the compulsion us catch-and-release anglers have.
So how do you find, catch and land these balls of muscle? Let me tell you what I've learnt over the years!
Straight off the bat, this article focuses on targeting the juvenile estuary-going bull sharks, which rarely exceed 1.5m in length, so rivers, creeks and canals are where most of my shark fishing happens. Larger sharks in more open waters require a different approach, and I've never done that sort of fishing, so I can't give advice on it.
After being spawned (bull sharks pups are actually born live, like mammals), the juveniles swim into rivers, creeks and canals to live for a few years, free from predation in an environment that is full of food. As I've already stated, these sharks exist all up and down the coast, and anywhere from the mouth of a river or creek system right up to the first impassable barrier, which is sometimes in drinkable freshwater, is likely to house sharks. I've seen bull sharks trying to climb rapids, and the next bass I have had taxed by a hungry bully up in the fresh certainly won't be the last. It's this tolerance to freshwater that makes these animals so amazing and unique.
Most of those who chase bullies have preferences for their rigs, but there are some aspects of a bull shark rig that you simply can't skimp on. The most obvious is a wire trace - that should be at least 30cm long. I've experimented with single strand rigs and premade nylon-coated traces, and haven't noticed a lot of difference. The wire is important to the rig because a bull shark's teeth can cut through monofilament of fluorocarbon cheese.
On the bottom of the rig obviously you need a hook, and in the last season I've discovered how good circle hooks are for catch and release shark fishing. Anything between a 4/0 and a 10/0 size (depending on the size of the sharks you're going up against) should suffice. These can either be crimped on when using nylon-coated wire, or attached with a Haywire twist, which you can easily learn from online videos. Some premade rigs also come with the hook already built into the rig.