While it was once exclusively the prey of commercial fisherman, the mako shark is now becoming popular with catch-and-release fly fishermen. You can date this phenomenon back to the early 90s, according to a recent story in Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine.

San Diego-based Capt. Conway Bowman of Bowman Bluewater is credited with starting it all, getting the wild idea of taking a 16-foot aluminum skiff out into the Pacific to fish for makos, even though he had never seen one. How did he do it? By pestering commercial fishermen into telling him where they were. But if you’re wondering why a man who makes his living off the sea would spill such a secret, the reason is simple. “He thought I was an idiot,” Conway says. “And why wouldn’t he think that? Here was a kid who wanted to run out into the Pacific in a tiny boat and try to catch a mako shark on a fly rod and then release it.”

Now something of an expert on the matter, Bowman describes the best ways to track down and successfully snag a mako:

sharkThe most amazing aspect of San Diego’s mako fishery is that most of the sharks are in the 50- to 150-pound range — perfect for fly rods. Every so often, a monster will appear in the chum, and Conway has hooked makos close to 1,000 pounds. You don’t land a lot weighing more than 300 pounds, but the potential is always there. Tackle is pretty simple. A 12- to 14-weight fly rod and a quality offshore reel with a weight forward line and 50- to 80-pound braid for backing will work just fine. The flies are the size of small chickens, but casts don’t have to be very long because makos fear nothing — not even the boat. They are the top of the food chain, and anything that smells good is worth investigating. They’ll swim right up and hang around the boat for as long as it takes to get themselves hooked.

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Photos: Fly Fishing in Salt Waters