Anglers eagerly await autumn. Fish that seemed reluctant to feed during the heat of August once again find their appetites and feed throughout the day as the season progresses.

For saltwater anglers, stripers and blues feed heavily before they begin their autumn migration. While anglers will frequent the shores looking to hook into one of those large cow stripers, many overlook a similar fall feeding frenzy taking place offshore.

Shark fishing has heated up significantly over the past few weeks, and according to the buzz in chat rooms and fishing reports, it’s the best it has been all summer.

There really is nothing like shark fishing in Maine. What other species readily comes to bait, can grow to 10 feet long, tips the scales at over 500 pounds and can take over an hour to reel in?

Blue sharks, makos, porbeagles and threshers are feasting now on mackerel, herring, bluefish and just about anything else with fins. Offshore anglers are having a ball reeling in huge sharks.

If you have never tried shark fishing, it’s a great time to try. These pelagic species are found in much of the same habitat where anglers target bluefin tuna.

Many anglers like to fish off ledges in 400 feet of water, but recently, these giants are showing up closer to the shores of Harpswell, Portland, Kennebunkport, Wells and other areas in the Gulf of Maine.

If it is your first time shark fishing, you will want to hook up with a guide, and there are many choices along Maine’s coast. These guides will put you on the fish, and with days considerably shorter now than they were in July, you want to make the most of your time on the water.

Many anglers who go offshore in search of groundfish or tuna are also finding that sharks are an attractive option if other fish aren’t biting.

Of course, catching a shark requires the right gear, and many local tackle shops have what you will need. While you can spend upwards of $600 on a reel alone, serviceable rod and reel combos are available for around $300.

Eighty- to 100-pound monofilament line is a must. The stretch in the monofilament will take some of the wear and tear off your tackle and your back when you are fighting a fish for 45 minutes. Speaking of your back, bring a fighting belt, preferably one with a kidney harness, to help you land these fish.

Take the time to make sure you have the right terminal tackle, as well. Once hooked, sharks will thrash, twist, turn and bite; and their rough skin can fray the thickest monofilament line in seconds. A 15-foot, 285-pound test, steel leader with an equally durable swivel snap will work well. For hooks, the size 12/0 Mustad 7731 is quite popular with shark anglers. Shops like Saco Bay Tackle have pre-made leaders complete with hooks.

One other item you will need is chum. Fortunately, many bait stores have frozen chum available in buckets. Right before you head out, take this frozen bucket and drill it full of holes so the chum scent will ooze out, creating a nice chum slick. As you near the area you are ready to fish, attach the chum bucket to a line, tie it off to the stern, and drag it in the direction you will drift, creating a chum slick that thickens as it nears the boat.

Vary your line setup at different depths until you get dialed in to where these toothy predators are feeding. Set the first line out in the chum slick, and using a balloon as a float, put it down 25 to 75 feet. Set your second line closer to the boat, and a littler shallower.

Some anglers find that along with the bucket of chum, dispersing some chunks or smaller fish into the slick can attract even more sharks. Anglers have been seeing large blue sharks right near the boats, nudging the chum bucket and looking for scraps.

Of course, please remember safety first while heading offshore to fish. Never bring a green fish to the boat, never wrap the leader around your hand before cutting the leader to release the fish, and always keep your eye on the weather.

Mark Latti is a former public information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and a registered Maine Guide. He can be reached at: [email protected]