Gone Fishin’: Rigging for sharks takes stout tackle

Wire and yards and yards of 50-pound test line are needed.

Matt Malowski gets some help measuring a brown shark he caught while fishing in the Martha's Vineyard Surfcasters Association shark tourney August 5. — Phil Cronin

Matt Malowski of Oak Bluffs is a shore fishing guide,  a school guidance counselor, and shore shark fisherman. I think there are skills that cross over all three occupations. I spoke to Matt this week about some of the elements of shark fishing.

When fishing from East Beach on Chappaquiddick, where there is no surf to contend with, Matt favors stout, short rods of the type used on boats for tuna and other large game. The short rods allow him to exert a lot of power.

His terminal tackle consists of a high-quality Gamakatsu 9/0 circle hook and a 12-14 inch single-strand of 94-104 pound test copper wire connected to a 250-pound test barrell swivel. The wire is connected to a long piece of 100-150 pound monofilament. Matt uses a variety of knots for his connections.

“I like to go as light as I can,” Matt said, noting some fishermen go heavier. The mono provides an important connection to the braid fishing line, which if it comes in contact with the shark’s sandpaper-like skin, will snap.

He spools a Shimano 12,000 baitrunner reel, one of the largest capacity reels, with 65-pound test braid line, about 400 yards of it. These fish are capable of peeling off a hundred yards in a blink of an eye, he said.

Asked if he has ever been spooled, Matt said he has come close. “The biggest one I have ever had on was close to 150 pounds, and that one took me close to the knot,” he said.

He noted that big rays are more likely to spool a fisherman, because they just keep slogging along at a steady pull. Matt said brown sharks make one strong blistering run then stop, and then several shorter runs.

Asked about the attraction, Matt said it is fun and exciting. “They are a very strong fish and they are very fast,” he said, likening it to tuna fishing from a boat. “I actually had one jump before — full body, right out of the water, so it’s kind of exciting,” he said.

He said it is all catch and release, using circle hooks as required by law for brown sharks.

For bait he uses “nice fresh bluefish” if he can get it. Fresh dead eels are also on the menu — he did not mention troublesome students.

Captain Phil Cronin made a very entertaining video of the recent Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Assoc. 2016 Chappy Shark Tourney posted to Youtube under that name.


There is a scene in the movie, “Sixth Sense” that stars Bruce Willis. It is a good ghost story thriller with an interesting plot. I recall a line. One of the main characters, a little kid, tells therapist Bruce Willis, “I see dead people.”

Well, I see stupid people. And I’m not in a movie.

On Monday morning I watched as captain R.W. Henson of Towboat Nantucket Sound, a marine tow and salvage company based in Falmouth, began to try to pull a 25-foot center console off the rocks at Eastville, using his company’s custom built 30-foot Almar towboat outfitted with twin 250-horsepower engines. As the tow rope went taut under thousands of pounds of weight, a guy with two young people in a Boston Whaler came in close — almost next to him — for a good look, despite the captain waving them off.

It is hard to understand how they could not have noticed the obvious danger. Had the tow line snapped, they were at risk of serious injury.

Great idea

I received a press release from the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) about an artificial reef created using the remnants of the old Harwich High School, two miles south of Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich, which is now attracting black sea bass, scup, and tautog.

“The 9.9-acre artificial reef, about 32 feet beneath the water’s surface, was created in March using 1,600 cubic yards of concrete rubble, including materials from the old high school that now rise three to six feet from an otherwise featureless seafloor to form a habitat for fish and crabs,” DMF said.

“As an avid fisherman, I am proud we could use recycled material to provide incredible fishing opportunities to the Commonwealth’s recreational fisherman,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said in a statement after joining project partners to celebrate the Harwich Artificial Fishing Reef. The $146,950 reef project was paid for with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds and $36,700 in recreational saltwater permit funds.

It would be great to see a similar project undertaken off Vineyard waters.