Sharks have returned to our waters in numbers not seen for several years, and while these magnificent creatures are a welcome sight they are not so welcome when they eat a bait or a hooked fish. Ocean-going sharks like makos, hammerheads and blue sharks are expected when game fishing on the blue water out wide but juveniles will also be encountered on inshore waters when fishing for snapper.

Several species come into shallow water every summer and bronze whalers are common at this time of year in harbours like the Waitemata, Manukau, Tauranga and Whangarei. These large specimens are females which come to drop their babies where they will be safer from predators, and they can often be seen jumping clear of the water as they chase fish over shallow reefs like the one at Crusoe Rock, between Motuihe and Waiheke Islands. They can also be hooked on heavy tackle from the rocks at places like Musick Point and Duders Point, and some will weight 200kg or more.

But most sharks encountered in close will be babies, and they love taking baits set for snapper. Young hammerheads, bronze whalers and school sharks are often hooked and can be quite lively. Threshers will race across the surface and are impressive when they leap clear of the water, their long tail waving in the air.

Mako sharks are in a different class. They love clear, blue warm water and these currents are often blown right inshore, as happened in the week prior to Christmas with prolonged northerly winds. The blue water came right inside Tiritiri Matangi Island, and it brought a lot of small mako sharks. Now makos are highly regarded as game fish and the legendary angler and writer Zane Grey had huge respect for the mako. He called it "an aristocrat among sharks," saying the mako was beautiful to look at "with his dark-blue back, his white underside, his spear-pointed head and staring cold black eyes, his wide wing-shaped fins and his magnificent tail. As a leaper he is absolutely in a class by himself."

Grey said a hooked mako would hunt out the source of his trouble. "He is the most fearless of any sea fish. When he is hurt he will attack a man, he will fight savagely and jump prodigiously."

This lack of fear and the propensity to hunt out what is causing aggravation can lead to danger for a snapper fisherman who hooks a small mako. It is easy to under-estimate such a fish when it swims right up to the boat, mistaking it for a docile, small shark.

"But sticking a gaff into one is like sticking a gaff into a stick of gelignite!" said Whangaparaoa fisherman Paul Walker. "They will go berserk, and even a small mako can cause a lot of damage. They will jump, and sometimes they land in the boat. If that happens the best place for you is outside the boat - in the water." Large makos have been known to destroy a boat after leaping into it. Walker recommends cutting the line and letting the mako go free.

"It is much easier than trying to get the hook out, and the hook will soon rust out."

But if kept the mako makes fine table fare, and in the United States mako steaks are highly regarded.

As with other sharks the mako builds up ammonia in the cartilaginous backbone and this can be cleaned out by cutting off the tail and head and allowing the juices to drain. Then the shark can be steaked like other large fish, or smoked in chunks.

Some anglers target sharks with game fishing tackle, and can sometimes be seen standing in a boat with a game rod, harness and gimbal belt as they struggle with a huge shark.

The biggest sharks in the harbour, the bronze whalers, prefer fresh bait like a kingfish head or a small stingray or eagle ray. But they can cause mayhem when brought to the boat and it is important to have an experienced crew who knows how to handle such fish.

Heavy duty gloves, a galvanised wire trace and hook should be used so it can be cut free with wire cutters and will rust away if the hook cannot be easily removed. The drag on the reel should be backed off when the fish is by the boat and any loose trace dropped into the water and not in the boat, in case the shark breaks away.