Florida fishermen make a historic great white capture on beach in Florida.
Gabriel Smeby and Derrick Keeny were bundled up on an undisclosed Florida beach, doing what they and their Dark Side Sharkers crew have been doing for decades between them, shark fishing. But on this chilly, early March night, they had no idea that they would be entering the history books of land-based shark fishing.
After deploying three rods with their bait of choice for the night (bonito) via kayak, about 300 yards from the shoreline of the beach, Gabe, Derrick and the rest of the crew bundled up and began the long, tedious waiting game that is land-based shark fishing. They were there for the duration of the night, no matter how cold, miserable, or boring it got.
After an oddly silent night, and patiently waiting for the better part of seven hours, Derrick’s 80 wide rod tip started to bounce a bit. Whatever was gnawing at his bonito on the other end was acting very strange. It was picking up and dropping the bait repeatedly while staying inside a relatively small area. They immediately thought that it was “the curse of the nurse,” better known as a nurse shark for all you non-sharkers. But once they had confidence that the fish playing with their bonito way out off the beach in the cold, quiet night air had finally taken the entire bait, Derrick reeled tight on his line, engaging the circle hook into the unknown assailant’s mouth. The battle had finally begun…
Derrick watched as a tremendous amount of line began disappearing off the spool of his reel. They immediately knew that they did not have the lethargic nurse shark hooked that they originally believed. A long slow, steady run made the fish mad, while the crew sat idlely by wondering what they may have hooked. A big bull shark? A tiger maybe? Possibly even a large hammerhead? Their minds were wandering through the forest of possibilities that presented themself during this particular battle, but before they could put their minds at ease, they had to stop it first.
After about 15 minutes of non-stop pulling, the mystery fish had finally tired out a bit, allowing them to begin gaining all the line they lost back onto the reel. Little by little, the spool began filling back up with all the line that was lost, and there was a sense of relief amongst the crew as they knew their chances of landing this beast had dramatically increased with the gaining of line.
About 45 minutes had elapsed when they saw the swivel attached to their leader rise out of the dark wash, and they knew the fish was right there in front of them. The rest of the crew rushed the surf with flashlights to try to spot and identify the beast they had been battling, when a dorsal broke the surface.
“DUSKY!” Someone yelled (which is very rare shark to see near the beach these days). But then the tail rose about six feet behind the dorsal, and nobody was sure what they were looking at anymore.
The crew rushed the surf to grab the leader, with Derrick still up on the beach working the rod, wondering what was happening in the wash.
“WHITE! IT’S A WHITE!” The crew began to yell up the beach toward Derrick. “A WHITE?! A GREAT WHITE?!” Derrick yelled as he de-harnessed and ran down the beach with the camera.
Indeed it was, the rarest of sharks, and the Dark Side Sharkers had just caught one, the only one to EVER be caught from shore in Florida. The shark at the end of Derrick’s line was one of only four known to have been landed from the beach in the entire United States.
The crew began working quickly to remove the circle hook from the corner of its mouth while somebody in the background kept snapping photos as fast as they could while they were working on prepping the shark for release in the wash zone. While they worked on removing the hook, one of the crew members got a NOAA shark tag and tagged the shark right underneath its dorsal (as per code), making it the only great white shark ever tagged from a beach.
In what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a minute and a half, they were pushing the juvenile male great white back out into deeper water, walking with it up until they got to about waist deep water, to make sure he swam off safely.
Derrick, Gabe and the rest of the crew began to lose their minds as the fish swam away, trying to register what had just happened to them on this fateful night. They have been around the sport for a long time, and they knew the significance of this catch, and its place in shark fishing history, as well as how valuable an encounter like this is in the science community.
Great white shark sightings have been on the rise in recent years, especially in the state of Florida, which lends credence to the fact that worldwide conservation attempts to protect great white stocks may indeed be working. And with tens of thousands of baits fished by land-based shark fisherman in the state of Florida each year alone, this is the first confirmed great white capture that has ever occurred.
It really goes to show that if you have baits soaking in the water, you never know what you are going to catch. After all, the ocean doesn’t have any fences.