Even at 22 today, only one time have I ever done something I would consider deep sea fishing. I live in Traverse City, MI, so I’ve been in the Grand Traverse Bay fishing for King Salmon and Lake Trout. I’ve never even taken a charter in the big lake or anything to do fishing like that. Back when I was a senior in high school, in spring of 2014, I took a spring break to Key West to see family and enjoy the time off.
My Aunt and Uncle who live down there are retired and do nothing except fish. Fish for fun, fish for their meals, fish when they’re happy, fish when they’re mad. My Uncle Marty took my brother, Max and I out in the Gulf of Mexico, probably a mile or so out; Pretty far out but we could still see shore, and we did some fishing. A lot of what we were initially catching was Grouper and Mackerel. They were fun fish to catch at the time. They would fight a bit and take the line down a bit, if I remember it would take a few minutes and sometimes more to reel them in.
We would all catch a few, save one, catch a few more maybe save another and get rid of a smaller one. My uncle knew what was considered big to those fish, so he told us which ones to keep. I remember when my brother or I caught a big one he would say “Oh boy put that one in the tank, yeah baby.” He would smile, Max and I would laugh and save the fish. I think we caught probably ten fish each, and got horribly burnt by the sun.
At this point it was at the last fish we caught, uncle Marty was reeling a fish in (what ended up being a mackerel), he was fighting it for a couple minutes and he started getting it close to the boat. Right as he pulled it up out of the water, an 8-9 foot grey shadow swam right underneath the fish. Max and I both looked at each other he could see I was scared and I saw he was too. We stood back a little bit while my uncle got right close and started laughing about it. He thought it was funny how stunned Max and I were that we were that close to a shark that big. This wasn’t a small shark you can go catch right off shore, this was a large shark that requires a plan, time, strength, and one hell of a battle.
After a couple “Oh my Gods,” and “holy craps,” my Uncle looks and says, “watch this.” He took out his fishing knife and cut the fish’s head off and threw it on a big hook. He attached a balloon to the line as a form of bobber and cast the bloody head into the blue. “I’ll get it on the line, you guys can fight it,” he said.
Within two minutes of seeing the shark for the first time, it had grabbed the fish head and took off with it. Max was the first to fight it, and he did for about 10 minutes. I don’t think it could have gotten more than 10 feet closer to the boat than the time it picked up the hook. Handoff to me. I grabbed the pole thinking I was going to be a stud and pull this thing close enough to see. I was wrong, not only was the reel on my bad side (left), that shark was ready to catch me and have me for lunch.
I was fighting this fish: give him slack, reel him, let him tire, reel him in, repeat. I had the pole for two minutes that felt like an hour of fighting. Right then the reel comes off the pole. In my mind that’s it. He’s taking it all with him, as Uncle Marty is laughing hysterically at my struggles, he grabs the reel and pole, screws it back together in a matter of seconds and lets me continue the battle. Another 10 minutes go by and the shark is nowhere near the boat. We saw him jump a few times but that was our only sight of him out of the water.
I had to give the pole back to Max as I was much too tired to keep going. That shark could have fought the two of us forhours. Max took the pole and the same routine was about to start all over again. He only had the pole for another couple minutes before the shark snapped the line and took it down with him. It was over, the battle ended. Max leaned back and took a few deep breaths, we just looked at each other and I knew we had the same thought in our heads, and we started to laugh.
My brother and I have grown up athletes and played multiple fast pased sports that require good stamina and lots of strength. To this day I’ve never been so tired after anything in my life. Fighting a big shark like that was exhilarating, I love a good adrenaline rush but I’m no adrenaline junkie; that fight with that fish was a rush and a half. I felt it in my arms and my whole body for a day or two. I haven’t been fishing like that since that day almost 5 years ago. Definitely something I will never forget, and something I would do again in a heart-beat.
Even if you’re a novice fisher, like I consider myself to be, I highly suggest getting to the sea and throwing in a couple lines. Not even for shark, but if you can hook a shark – hook it. It’s one of those thigs you won’t think is that fun or that hard until you actually do it, and you’ll never regret it. You’ll have a story to tell for a lifetime.