February 24 2024

Thresher Shark Fishing

by Ryan Collins

*Before fishing for sharks, vessel owners must obtain an Atlantic highly migratory species permit, with the shark endorsement. Please click here to learn more.

In the first episode of season 7 of My Fishing Cape Cod TV I went thresher shark fishing for the first time in my life. A couple of years ago my dad and I caught a thresher shark while tuna fishing off Provincetown, but up until Monday July 31st 2023, I had never specifically targeted them.

Of course threshers were not the only shark we were fishing for, and to be completely honest, we began by targeting makos. However big thresher sharks would end up stealing the show.

Captain Terry Nugent of Rip Tide Charters.

My Fishing Cape Cod member Chris Demma.

At 6am I met up with MFCC member Chris Demma and Terry Nugent of Rip Tide Charters. It was a gorgeous flat calm morning with a beautiful sunrise as we headed out of the harbor shown in the map below.


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Terry pointed the bow of his Ocean Master 27 southwest where we hoped to catch bluefish for bait.

As soon as we entered the area shown below, the radar lit up with birds, which indicated that the bait (and hopefully the blues) were here. 


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Chris went to the bow and began casting a small topwater plug while Terry trolled two small X-rap style lures off the stern. The bluefish were feeding everywhere but they were surprisingly finicky.

We figured they must have been feeding on small bait.

Fortunately the blues did cooperate when we were able to perfectly place a cast directly on top of their heads.

We picked a couple up on the trolled X-raps too, and within a half an hour we had a half dozen enormous bluefish that were in the high 30 inch class.

With plenty of bait onboard we headed to an area that's produced very well for Terry in the past.

I can't post the exact spot (I'm sure you can understand why) but I can tell members the general area we were fishing. Simply login or start a membership and then revisit this article to see that information.

Once we arrived at the spot Terry broke out a chum bucket he had purchased from Falmouth Bait and Tackle. He drilled holes into the bucket, placed it in the water, and began to "power chum". This involved driving the boat at a slow speed which quickly dispersed the chum over a larger area of several hundred yards.

With the chum slick going well we set big circle hooks baited with bluefish fillets under balloons and began our drift. Not more than 15 minutes went by and we had our first bite! However the fish was acting strange and not pulling as hard as we expected.

Pictured here is one of the two mako sharks caught during this trip.

To my astonishment it was a 80 or 90 pound mako! Makos are known for their throttling speed and ability to jump straight clear of the water, but this guy was acting lazy. In the past we could have kept the mako (they are great eating) but today they must be released. The circle hook made this part easier because the hook was embedded in the lip of the mako and it actually popped free boat side making for a clean release.

Not much time passed before we had a second mako on the line. This shark was about the same size and it also acted lazily. Perhaps they had just fed and were too full to fight hard? I suppose I'll never know for sure. 

Fresh butterflied mackerel ended up working better than the bluefish.

Throughout this entire time Chris was jigging for mackerel and catching some nice ones. Terry decided to butterfly the macks and send those out under balloons. Sure enough we quickly got bit again but this time line was screaming from the reel under the weight of a powerful fish.

Whatever was on the end of the line was pulling hard. We all took turns fighting this one before finally getting a good look at it. At first I thought it was a shark being followed by a second shark, but suddenly I realized I was looking at the shark's tail!

Thresher sharks will use their enormous tail to whip and stun baitfish.

Relative to their body length, thresher sharks have the longest tail out of all sharks, and that's when we realized we were dealing with was a massive thresher.

The fight was far from over, even though we had the thresher next to the boat. The shark dove beneath the hull en route to the bottom.

For a while the shark was steadily pumping at 50 feet beneath the boat, but eventually we got her back to the surface. 

It is legal to keep thresher sharks for food and Terry asked if we wanted him to harpoon it. I looked at the size of the shark and said "no thanks!" due to not knowing what I would do with hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of meat.

So with that decision made we eased the shark in closer to the boat to prepare for the release. Fortunately the circle hook was right in the lip of the shark, which made it easy for Terry to cut the wire leader right at the hook, and send the shark on her way.

About 20 minutes or so later we had another big hit on the butterflied mackerel. Once again the shark was screaming line from the reel and then it went airborne! We knew at this point it was another thresher, albeit just slightly smaller than the first monster.

The shark put up another amazing fight, and this time the hook popped free at the boat, which made for a perfect release. 

The rest of the day included several encounters with blue sharks, which are probably the most common shark that you'll catch off Cape Cod.

I also got some bites on baits that I had rigged up with a camera which is always fun to see!

On the way home I thought about the abundance of sharks in the waters off Cape Cod. Right off our beaches roam Great Whites and Browns, and just a bit further out you'll find threshers, makos, blues and others, such as the porbeagle and even the occasional hammerhead.

For me the main attraction of shark fishing is having an opportunity to see these amazing animals up close and personal. It's not something I will probably do all that often, as I am personally in no rush to deal with a 400+ pound thrashing shark at the side of my boat, but I am very grateful to have had the experience with captain Terry and my new fishing friend Chris Demma.

As always thank you for reading and watching My Fishing Cape Cod TV! I hope your "off season" is going well and please keep me posted with what you think, or if you have any questions, by leaving a comment below.

Tight lines! šŸŽ£

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!


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