On February 12, a six-man team of land-based shark anglers inadvertently hooked into a 13-foot great white shark while fishing on a beach near Pensacola, Florida. Guided by Captain John McLean of Big John’s Shark Fishing Adventures, the crew caught the iconic apex predator using a giant tuna head for bait. They pulled the shark into the surf, used bolt cutters to break the heavy wire leader attached to the bait, and then promptly returned the great white to the Atlantic Ocean—and the whole thing was captured on McLean’s GoPro camera. Check it out for yourself below.
Normally, McLean uses his remote control Aquacat RC bait boat for “casting” shark bait. But in this case, the bait was too big for the electronic boat. He has kayaked out in similar circumstances in the past, but the last time he did it, his kayak was stalked by a marauding shark. This time around, fellow charter boat fishing captain David Miller paddled 900 yards into the rough surf while McLean and his four clients watched from the beach.
McLean had the team rigged up with Shark Bound custom rods set on a gimbal mount rod holder that was propped on the beach by PCV pipes. He used Tightline braid and a 1,200-pound test Big John Shark Rig with a size 24 hook.
As soon as Miller returned to the beach in his kayak, the gear was put to the test. A shark took the bait and ran straight out. After the furious run let up, the fishermen took turns reeling over the next hour and seven minutes. At times during the fight, as many as four members of the team had to support the gear.
“My fishing gear was pushed to the limits, but it was up to the task to effectively reel in this massive white shark,” McLean later told Fox News. “Since I used proper equipment, we were able to make a quick release. Shark fishing and conservation starts with using the right gear.”
After an exhausting fight, the team corralled their catch, freed it from the heavy-duty rig, and released it. McLean said this was the biggest white shark he’s ever caught and estimated it to be at least 13 feet long—which would likely put it at over 1,200 pounds. Great white sharks are federally protected. In Florida, prohibited species such as great whites must remain in the water with gills submerged when caught. It is illegal to intentionally target great white sharks.
Related: Great White Shark Bites the Head Off of a Diver in Extremely Rare Type of Fatal Shark Attack
An OCEARCH-tagged and tracked shark named Maple—last measured at 11 feet, 7 inches, and estimated to weigh 1,264 pounds—was pinged in the same area earlier this week. The largest great white shark ever recorded, Deep Blue, was 20 feet long and weighed 4,500 pounds.