One of the boats for Fired Up Fishing Charters — Photo courtesy of Fired Up Fishing Charters
Chris Cameron knows where the sharks are. And he can bring you right to them on your next trip to the Space Coast in Florida.
When you think about a visit to the Atlantic Ocean, you probably are more focused on how to avoid these sharp-toothed beasts. But Cameron is dedicated to finding sharks and catching them – sometimes to eat, sometimes to release.
Cameron, who lives outside of Orlando, has been fishing in the Cocoa Beach area for decades. About 10 years ago, he turned his hobby into a career by opening Fired Up Fishing Charters.
When Cameron is not working as a firefighter paramedic, his other job, he leads people on chartered fishing tours: offshore, near shore, in shore or in the lagoons. He and his crew of captains lead tours every day of the year, even on Christmas. Sometimes families are looking for a nontraditional way to celebrate, he says.
Fired Up Fishing Charters, based out of Cape Canaveral, runs half-day, five-hour trips or full-day, nine-hour trips for up to six people per boat. A full-day trip is the most popular, because you can “get a lot more bang for your buck,” with the potential to visit multiple fishing locations, Cameron says.
“I want people to keep coming back and catch fish, and you get more of a shot to do so in a full day,” he says.
A shark in the waters near Cape Canaveral — Photo courtesy of Shark Fishing Cocoa Beach
His sister company, Shark Fishing Cocoa Beach, continues to grow in popularity, too, and offers morning, afternoon and early evening four-hour trips.
Despite the misconceptions, sharks feed all day, not just at night, Cameron says.
Shark fishing is different than regular fishing, because sharks cruise close to the beach in about eight to 15 feet of water, Cameron says.
“They’re around when you’re swimming, but you don’t know they’re there,” he says.
The guides toss chunks of meat into the water where they gather and then wait. On a good day, this can mean a lot of action.
Ten different species of sharks live in these waters, including great whites – although the charter has never caught one. They have caught hammerheads, sandbars, sand tigers and blacknoses, though.
The bigger sharks tend to come into the shallows in the winter, which means this is the time of year to catch a large shark. But if a shark is too big, guides won’t bring it on the boat. Sandbar sharks can reach 250 pounds, and sand tigers can be 350.
Cameron said he saw a mako swim by the boat one day pushing 500 pounds.
Those guys aren’t coming aboard.
“We can’t handle it, and it’s too dangerous,” Cameron says. “Some, we hook up and can’t even get them in. You just hold the rod down until the line breaks. Or you fight them for two hours and pass the pole around to everyone on the boat, and everyone has a good time.”
A shark caught by the charter — Photo courtesy of Shark Fishing Cocoa Beach
Black tips that weigh between 35 and 40 pounds are his favorite to keep and eat, and they’re not protected species, like some sharks.
“They taste very good. You wouldn’t know it was shark if I cooked it up and served it,” he says. “Down here, they cut it up into little cubes and bread them and call them shark kabobs. They’re always sold out.”
Although visitors can rent their own boat and hit the waters, both shark and regular fishing can be challenging – even for experienced fishers.
“We do this every day. We know where they’re at, the tackle to use,” he says. “I’ve been doing this about 20 years, and I learn every single time I go out. If you want to do it right, you just hire a guide.”
Unless otherwise requested, the charters go where the fish are, and that varies every day. The company updates its Facebook page regularly, to show what they’re catching and to share the adventures.
Also in these waters: wahoo, tarpon, sailfish and amberjack kingfish. If you want to keep the fish, the guides will clean them and get them ready to grill.
Cameron says he runs two of the nicest boats in the port and has worked hard to build one of the top fishing charter companies in the area. Fired Up Fishing Charters books out far in advance and stays busy 365 days a year, so Cameron recommends booking as far in advance as possible.
When it comes down to catching a fish or snagging a shark, Cameron offers this advice:
“When all else fails, try doing what the captain said,” he says with a laugh. “The people who come out with a great attitude and just want to have a great time on the ocean are the best. You know those days are going to be awesome.”
Take a half-day or full-day trip — Photo courtesy of Fired Up Fishing Charters