Do you remember that scene in Jaws when the mayor orders Chief Brody not to tell people about the shark attacks because it’s tourist season?
Nick Ager (@OCSharkHunter on Instagram) has had a similar experience.
“Ocean City [Maryland] is a tourist town,” he says. “And we used to tag all our pictures with #OCMD. I was told not to do that anymore because they were worried about scaring off tourists.”
“Whenever we’re fishing on a beach, we draw a crowd,” he says. “We’re not scaring anybody off. If anything, we’re attracting tourists. I don’t really fish in Ocean City so much — you can’t use bait or kayaks anymore.”
For Nick, that’s bad for business. He is a land-based guide who specializes in helping his clients catch sharks — and then release them. All the fishing is done from the beach or a kayak, or sometimes both if he’s using a kayak to get the bait offshore.
These days, he prefers to fish from Assateague Island, which is just across the inlet from Ocean City and far less crowded — at least on land.
“We catch smooth and scalloped hammers [hammerhead sharks], lots of sand tigers and stingrays — big rays,” Nick says. “They’re all out there, right under people’s feet, and they don’t even know it.”
Because shark fishing is his business, Nick is a believer in shark conservation.
“We tag the sharks we catch, take their measurements, and put them back,” he says. “And we’re really good at it, really fast. The sharks are rarely out of the water for more than one or two minutes — and they’re never all the way out of the water.”
Speaking of measurements, Nick’s personal best was an eleven-foot smooth hammer.
“We also see a lot of big sand tigers,” he says. “In June and July, we get black tips and smooth tips and in August, we may get a shot at some tiger sharks.”
Although sharks are the bread and butter of his guide business, Nick is a lifelong angler who “fishes for everything.”
He grew up fishing freshwater near Rockville, Maryland. Now, when he’s not putting clients on sharks, Nick chases whatever’s running the coast.
“Bluefish, rockfish, stripers. If they’re running, I’ll chase ‘em,” he says. “You can get some really decent trout off Assateague. And the black drum. They’re fun to catch when they’re running — but you’ve got to be ready for them when they get there.”
For Nick, fishing is all about the chase.
“You’ve got to target the fish you’re trying to catch,” he says. “And then you try and land a lot of nice fish.”
But really, it’s the hope that the next big one is on the end of the line that drives Nick.
“That’s what keeps me going out there,” Nick says. “Waiting to get that big one. Getting that big bite on that big run… waiting for that tiger shark.”