Shark Powered Kayak Fishing Sleigh Ride
By Mike Stevens
While the footage of this shark-powered “Jacksonville Sleigh Ride” might indicate a once-in-a-lifetime tow, it was nothing new to Florida angler Mark Stiehl.
A 53-year-old airline pilot from Jacksonville Beach, FL., he has gone on many-a-cruise under the powerful tug of a local blacktip reef shark headed for the moon, but you might be surprised at some of the other species that have relocated his kayak quite a jaunt from the point of hookup.
“My favorite types of fishing from the kayak is for tarpon and sharks,” said Stiehl. “Although I only admit to chasing tarpon if my wife is within earshot! Tarpon have actually towed me well over a mile.”
The shark acting as the engine for this particular ride was a 100-pound class blacktip — a species that Steihl likes to target by tracking shrimp boats and waiting for them to dump their goodies in the water.
“I use an Ocean Kayak Tetra Angler 12. It’s a little narrower, so I can paddle it faster while chasing down dragging shrimp boats. The sharks and tarpon follow the shrimp boats waiting for the bycatch to be dumped over the side. I am sometimes able to pick a large shark, sight cast to it and then the sleigh ride begins,” Stiehl added.
Like most seasoned ‘yak anglers, the tackle he utilizes is tailored specifically for the type of fishing he is doing. In Stiehl’s case, he tends to reach for a Penn 5500 Spinfisher V spooled with 30-pound Power Pro line mounted on an Ugly Stik Custom USCSUS 1166M when it comes to rod and reel. He opts for the 6’6” rod because it is perfect for storing in the kayak when traversing the surf on rough days.
As for the terminal rig itself, it is the result of a lot of trial and error, but Stiehl seems to have it dialed in.
“The 30-pound braid is tied to 10 feet of 80-pound Power Pro and then to six feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. Next comes a swivel to #8 wire. The hook I usually use is a 1-ounce jig head with a treble hook stinger, and the bait I use is either a freshly snagged menhaden or a freshly caught bluefish,” he said.
As for kayak-fishing opportunities in the Jacksonville area, you would be hard pressed to find a better ambassador for the region.
“I have landed at least eight doubleheaders this year, and I have hooked sharks and tarpon from right behind the shore break to over a mile offshore,” he says. “Our kayak fishing is fabulous here in the Jacksonville area. My son catches trout and redfish in the creeks. There is nothing like being pulled by eight feet of fired up blacktip shark.”