Tips for avoiding shark bite-off

All around WA and particularly heading north of Geraldton, a lot of fishers know the frustration of losing prized hooked fish to sharks. 

While sharks might have 400 million years on us regarding perfecting hunting fish in the ocean, losing high volumes of high value species to shark bite-off is avoidable.  

Recfishwest has reached out to many experienced fishing experts, charter operators and top sportfishers who have great tips below on how to best limit if not avoid shark bite-off – and profanity-riddled fishing trips. 

1) Avoid areas known to be shark hot-spots 

“Don’t waste your time and gear going to a spot you know to have been bad for shark-bite off previously. Sharks are opportunistic feeders and will learn where it’s likely to grab an easy feed. For this reason, it is always a wise idea to fish a fair distance away from boat ramps. Sharks attuned to the sound of outboard motors have also been observed following boats out from boat ramps.”Steve Riley, Owner of Exmouth Tackle & Camping    

2) Know how to spot sharks on sounders  

“It is a wise idea to do a mock drift over your fishing spot first to see if sharks are in the area. Sharks also appear differently to fish on a sounder, in that they do not have gas-filled swim bladders and will generally appear as a continuous solid or even wavy line on sounders, rather than the curved, arch-like shape that show up on the sounder screen generally indicating scale fish.”Eddie Lawler, Owner of Peak Sportfishing Exmouth  

“The main difference between sharks and fish is sharks don’t have that arched ‘boomerang’ appearance on your head unit. Another factor is unlike bottom dwelling fish that generally live close to the ocean’s substrate, sharks are generally higher in the water column and must ‘continually swim to live’ so to speak,”Chris Tanti, Simrad and Richter pro-teamer

Check out the sounder images below to see how sharks will appear on most devices.  

3) Turn your sounder and engine off when fishing your spot 

“Sharks have been known to sense the sonar activity from sounders and a running engine can also bring them in knowing fishers will start dropping a line. One crucial step to avoiding sharks is stealth. If you are confident in the reliability of your engine, switch it off at each spot along with your sounder. If your engine can be tricky to start, avoid turning it off and simply move spots frequently.” Tackle World Exmouth   

4) Be selective about the ground you fish 

Steer clear of good-looking structure close to shore that is commonly fished, as sharks know hooked fish are easy targets at these locations. While this kind of structure can look mouth-watering to anglers on sounders and often holds fish, sharks learn that these spots frequently see lines dropped down, leading to hooked fish and easy meals.  

“The further away you travel from shore, the less likely it is you will come across sharks. I catch 99 per cent of my demersals off flat ground and most fishers don’t realise that bigger fish frequently sit under ledges only half a metre high. I don’t bother fishing big lumps or structure because it is almost always covered in sharks. I’ll fish mud, sand or rubble where fish will still gather but sharks don’t tend to,”Josh Bruynzeel, On Strike Charters Exmouth  

5) Keep moving fishing spots 

One of the simplest, yet most effective tips. It is widely known that once sharks move in on your spot, it’s only going to get worse. “Don’t leave a bite to find a bite,” may be an old fishing adage that holds water – but if you’ve been successful in getting a couple of fish on the boat, it is worth considering moving spots before the sharks join the party. 

“If you have a favourite ‘honey hole’ and suddenly lose a nice fish to a shark there – I’d highly recommend picking up and motoring (with haste) to another spot to protect that cohort of fish,”Chris Tanti, professional sportfisher and skipper of Broome Billfish Charters    

6) Try drifting rather than anchoring  

While anchoring up can keep you locked on to your preferred spots, drifting helps you cover more ground and the sound of anchors grabbing on to structure is also known to bring in sharks.   

7) Keep your fishing depths to a minimum  

The deeper the water being fished, the more time you spend fighting the fish in order to bring it up to the surface. Try targeting demersals in the shallowest depths possible where they are known to roam. Catching coral trout in 10-15m of water will always have a better success rate of avoiding sharks than targeting them in depths of 40-50m. 

8) Use one hook on bottom-fishing rigs, not two

You might think that using two hooks on a paternoster-style bottom-fishing rig means double the chances in landing a fish – in reality, the moment you get a double hook-up your odds of being sharked increase significantly.

A double hook-up means you would have both fish pulling in different directions and slowing each other down, which puts out a wider distress signal that acts as a beacon for sharks and it also means you’re going to have a much slower retrieval rate. All seasoned fishers in the northern regions of WA strongly recommend using one hook per bottom-fishing rig as this does not decrease your odds of a hook-up, makes it easier to bring the fish up and greatly reduces your odds of shark bite-off. All shark repellent technology (located below) also works best with single-hook setups. 

9) Put your boat into gear once hooking a fish  

“For bottom fishing – especially deep dropping in places like Exmouth where sharks can be a real problem – I like to click the boat into gear once the fish is clear of the bottom as the sharks have learnt to follow the boat. This brings the catenary of the fish up on a larger angle. Once the fishes swim bladder expands and it starts to come up quickly, I usually try to get on top of the fish as quickly as possible. You can also throw diversions at the sharks such as bait if you have any.”Chris Tanti, professional sportfisher and skipper of Broome Billfish Charters

10) Put your reel in free-spool if fish is being chased by a shark 

It is a natural reaction to try and ‘skull drag’ fish into the boat when they are being chased down by attempting to reel it in as quickly as possible. In reality, you are tipping the odds back in the shark’s favour. Sharks have 20-50m rapid bursts of speed, then fatigue quickly. Let the fish’s speed and endurance work in your favour. Once your fish is in the clear and also starts experiencing fatigue, chase it down in your boat – then get it in quickly. 

11) Use lures, not baits  

Sure, bait and burley work well in attracting the fish to your hook, but those scents are picked up even more acutely by sharks. Lures, jigs and soft plastics are always better options in avoiding shark bite-off and oily baits such as mulies and burley will rapidly bring sharks into the area. Live-baits will also attract sharks close by. 

12) Avoid catch-and-release fishing 

If you have just spent a considerable amount of time pulling a demersal fish to the surface, it will be exhausted and if there are sharks in the area, it is highly unlikely that it will make it back to the bottom without being picked off. If you want to release a fish and improve its chances of avoiding awaiting jaws, swim the fish alongside the boat a fair distance away from where it was landed until it starts to kick. 

13) Hold your rod and troll lures closer to the boat  

If you hook a fish when trolling, you want to react as quickly as possible and create the smallest window of opportunity for sharks. Keeping a hand on the rod when trolling means anglers can react faster and prevent the fish taking more line, reducing the fight time. Also, rather than trolling lures 30-50m from the back of your boat, try 15-20m instead as this will not decrease your odds of a hook-up while reducing the distance of the fish to the boat. 

14) Clean your fish on land rather than at sea  

Don’t discard your filleted fish back into the waters around your preferred fishing spots as this will only help accumulate more sharks in that area. Cleaning your fish on land for composting ensures sharks do not start gathering at popular fishing spots commonly frequented by boats. 

15) Consider using shark deterrent devices   

Shark deterrents do not stop sharks entering a fishing area, but they do provide more time for anglers to land their fish, which is crucial. Check out the shark repellent devices currently on the market below including their price, video demonstrations, how they work and reviews.  

Shark deterrent devices

Sharkbanz Zeppelin

Product name and price (AUD)

The Sharkbanz Zeppelin, currently available for $100 in tackle stores. To check out the product site click here!

Product claims

  • 1-2m deterrent field.
  • Does not repel any other fish, only sharks and rays.
  • 84% reduction in hooked fish being sharked (Exmouth testing).
  • 75% of fish landed when one or two sharks are in pursuit.
  • Weighs 185grams (around 6 ounces) therefore can replace your sinker in some situations.
  • Effective at all depths.
  • Longer fight times may allow shark habituation to occur.
  • Best attached so it will sit 45-90cm below your catch upon retrieval.
  • Made in Australia.
  • Biodegradable Environmentally Friendly PLA Materials.

What is it and how does it work?

The Sharkbanz Zeppelin was designed for bottom fishing applications, it is an extremely strong magnet that uses its intense magnetic field to deter sharks from depredating your catch.

The strong magnetic field produced by the device is harmless, but highly unpleasant for sharks when they enter within two metres of the device, as their electroreception sensory organ is overwhelmed by the artificial field that is far stronger than anything they would ever encounter in nature.

At a one metre distance, the shark will generally turn away as inside this distance, the force becomes exponentially greater every few centimetres due to the laws of magnetic induction.

The device is therefore best positioned below the catch, so a pursuing shark is turned away before it reaches the struggling fish. Due to the fact the Zeppelin uses permanent magnet technology rather than electromagnetism, no battery or charging is required.


“Deployed two off the boat in Exmouth last week over several days. Not one sharking in spots I’d given up on. Hooked two sharks when we didn’t drop them. IMO, they worked.” – Mark M

“Game-Changer… Worth every penny and not losing nearly as many fish!” – Roger

“We typically use these big heavy sinkers, but the sharks will eat them on the way down and [those sinkers] rifle. We started using the Sharkbanz Fishing products, which don’t rifle, and we’ve noticed a far better recovery of the fish. We’re definitely noticing a difference. To give an example, where I might lose 16 fish to sharks and bring home 14 fish. With Sharkbanz, we’re probably only losing 3 fish to sharks and getting our bag limits much earlier.” – Captain Terry Maxwell Exmouth, WA, Charter Captain

“Sharkbanz Fishing is going to help the recreational fishermen in all areas to catch more fish. We went to fishing ground that you can’t fish because of the shark population to test the devices and we bagged out. Some Captains call it Shark Alley because every fish they catch gets sharked. When we arrived, we always turn the sonar and the motors off but this time we didn’t. We wanted the best possible chance to bring the sharks in and catch fish in an area that’s known for getting sharked. So we were fishing in Shark Alley with the devices, and we landed heaps of fish. We landed 5 really good Snappers, and the only one we lost was because I rigged the device too long, and it was too far away from the fish. To land fish in Shark Alley made it a really good day.” – Steve Riley, Owner of Exmouth Tackle and Camping

Ocean Guardian Fish02

Product Name and price

The Ocean Guardian Fish02 can be pre-ordered for $3,750. To check out the product site click here!

Product claims

  • 15m deep, 6m wide deterrent field.
  • Reduce shark depredation by at least 65%.
  • Can be fished in depths up to 200m.
  • Shark Shield Technology is the world’s most scientifically proven and independently tested electrical shark deterrent.
  • Proven ocean guardian tech with government rebates on surfing and diving models.
  • Nothing is more effective.
  • World first long-range shark deterrent.

What is it and how does it work?

The Ocean Guardian Fish02 is based off the same technology as the Freedom series of shark deterrents used for diving. This technology uses a battery fed electromagnetic field rather than a permanent magnet, leading to a larger and more intense electrical field. Ocean guardian products have been proven effective and are even government subsidised in Australia for their surfing and diving applications. The device consists of either a 4.4m or 6.8m antenna electrode that can be interchanged based on water depth. The electrode is fed by a 1.6kg power module that provides up to 12 hours of operation. The biggest advantage of this technology and what sets it apart from other fishing shark deterrents on the market, is that only a single unit is needed to deter sharks from a large area beneath the boat as opposed to only single lines and therefore everyone on board can benefit from less bite-offs during a fishing session.


“I’ve had a number of successful trips with the Ocean Guardian FISH01. It is normal for us to lose two out of every three fish to sharks in the reefs in and around Townsville, and in some trips, I have lost every decent fish to a shark. I have now had two successful trips using the FISH01 where the numbers were reversed. In one trip I did not lose a single fish to a shark until the battery went flat, and then I lost every fish to sharks. There is no doubt the Shark Shield Technology works!”– Kevin Copley, QLD


Product name and price (AUD)

The Rpelx is currently available at $329 for online orders, prices could potentially drop once it reaches tackle stores. This product is expected to hit tackle store shelves around mid to late 2023. To check out the product page click here!

Product claims

  • Under baited testing conditions, the RpelX device significantly reduced the probability of a shark bite from around 75% down to 25%.
  • LED light on device said to attract fish
  • Rated to 80m or less depths
  • Surf model offers government rebate proving it works
  • Same brand as Rpela surf devices
  • Rechargeable device (takes 2hrs to fully charge)
  • Approved as working well against sharks by Ben Knaggs from Exmouth Game Fishing Club

What is it and how does it work?

Rpelx is a purpose-built shark deterrent device for fishing that utilises a battery-operated electromagnetic field. This technology was developed by David Smith over four years, who founded the Rpela shark repellent intended to protect surfers.

The device consists of a stainless-steel module (135mm x 27mm) connected by an electrode (830mm) that hangs down along the fishing rig and attaches to the electrode float (170mm x 20mm).

On full charge, the device can be used for 2 hours and will only activate once submerged, with an LED light automatically turning on when the device is active.

The device is said to create a field around a hooked fish that is extremely unpleasant for the sharks due to it overwhelming their electroreceptors, much like the other devices on the market.


Was scientifically tested across 25 fishing locations in QLD and Exmouth for bottom fishing, with no fish lost to sharks according to founder and CEO, David Smith.

Company states an in-depth review coming from Ben Knaggs

More info

Scientists get their teeth into shark bite-off study

Shark deterrent study makes headway in tackling WA’s frustrating bite-off issue

 Channel 7 news item on shark deterrents

Fisheries science update – April 2022 – Shark Depredation

Fisheries Fact Sheet – Sharks in WA

Zeppelin links and info

 Ocean Guardian Fish01 Links and Info

Rpelx Links and info

And if you want to really dive deep!

Scientific research papers

Mitchell, J. D., McLean, D. L., Collin, S. P., & Langlois, T. J. (2018). Shark depredation in commercial and recreational fisheries. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries28(4), 715-748.

Summary points

  • Future research, testing deterrents and education of fishers to be focused on practical ways to reduce the impact of depredation.
  • When locating and depredating hooked fish, it is likely that the highly evolved sensory systems of sharks respond to a number of biophysical and/or environmental cues. For example, a shark may detect the auditory cues of a boat engine, echosounder or anchor chain first, since sound travels over long distances underwater.
  • Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis, Carcharhinidae) have been found to respond to sounds from up to 400 m away.
  • At closer range, and depending on water clarity and light levels, sharks may use vision from up to 100 m away.
  • Research has recorded reduced catch rates of sharks when magnets were deployed close to hooks.
  • Similarly, the use of electropositive lanthanide metals (e.g. cerium, neodymium) as a passive deterrent has had mixed success.
  • Deterrents may be reduced when multiple sharks are competing for food.

Mitchell, J. D., Schifiliti, M., Birt, M. J., Bond, T., McLean, D. L., Barnes, P. B., & Langlois, T. J. (2020). A novel experimental approach to investigate the potential for behavioural change in sharks in the context of depredation. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 530, 151440.

Summary points

  • Higher densities of fishing vessels and greater cumulative fishing pressure in specific areas of the NMP, over time, were found to result in higher depredation rates, as well as the formation of depredation hotspots.
  • The release of unwanted fish which are stressed from being exposed to air, suffering from barotrauma and have impaired reflexes (McArley and Herbert, 2014), may also represent an easy food source for sharks, contributing to such behavioural associations.

Tixier, P., Lea, M., Hindell, M. A., Welsford, D., Mazé, C., Gourguet, S., & Arnould, J. P. Y. (2021). When large marine predators feed on fisheries catches: Global patterns of the depredation conflict and directions for coexistence. Fish and Fisheries (Oxford, England), 22(1), 31–53.

Summary points

  • While deterrence was the approach most often implemented (spe- cifically ADDs and non-lethal explosives/gunshots, in 24 and 19 fish- eries, respectively), they were also the least successful in minimizing depredation (effective in only 25% and 5% of these fisheries, respec- tively) and the most subject to uncertainty around harmful effects.
  • Among behavioural avoidance measures, targeting times and/ or areas of low risk of depredation and move-on practices were the two most common measures (21 and 15 fisheries, respec- tively), with effectiveness reported in 57% and 53% of the fish- eries, respectively, but unknown for the remaining 43% and 47%.

Schifiliti, M., McLean, D. L., Langlois, T. J., Birt, M. J., Barnes, P., & Kempster, R. (2014). Are depredation rates by reef sharks influenced by fisher behaviour? (No. e708v1).

Summary points

  • Commercial longline fisheries, which are known to be impacted by shark depredation and shark bycatch, use a variety of shark avoidance strategies, which recreational fishers could also implement
  • Longline fishers may avoid fishing in areas with known high shark abundances and where high rates of depredation are known to occur, to reduce the further conditioning of shark
  • If fishers experience high level of depredation they should stop fishing in that area
  • Water current major factor, took sharks longer to find baits (full Moon Day 5 of study)

Coulson, P. G., Ryan, K. L., & Jackson, G. (2022). Are charter and private-boat recreational fishers learning to live with shark depredation?. Marine Policy, 141, 105096.

Summary points

  • As with other contentious issues where changes in fishing behaviour are required, decision-makers will need to devise strategies to inform and educate the fishing public in how to mitigate against depredation.
  • Location, stopping fishing, and changing fishing methods, to reduce or avoid depredation.

Mitchell, J. D., Drymon, J. M., Vardon, J., Coulson, P. G., Simpfendorfer, C. A., Scyphers, S. B., … & Jackson, G. (2022). Shark depredation: future directions in research and management. Reviews in fish biology and fisheries, 1-25.

Summary points

  • Various types of permanent magnets, including ferrite (Fe2O3), barium ferrite (BaFe12O19), and neodymium ferrite (NdFeB) have had varied success as shark deterrents and are not always effective, particularly when there is competition among sharks during feeding.
  • SharkBanz Fishing—Zeppelin illustrates that the magnetic field decreases to background levels approximately 30–40 cm from the device.
  • The use of acoustics as a shark deterrent has been investigated, particularly the use of orca (Orcinus orca) calls. While these have been shown to be an effective shark deterrent (Chapuis et al. 2019; Myrberg et al. 1978), sharks also exhibit evasive behaviours when exposed to artificially generated sounds that are rapidly increased or suddenly transmitted, even at a low amplitude.