ORANGE BEACH – By the light of moon and headlamps, a 10-to-11-foot great white shark was caught March 7 at 4 a.m. by shark fishing outfitters Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny of Coastal …
ORANGE BEACH – By the light of moon and headlamps, a 10-to-11-foot great white shark was caught March 7 at 4 a.m. by shark fishing outfitters Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny of Coastal Worldwide (watch the video here).
Jill Hendon, director of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development, told Gulf Coast Media it indeed looked to be a great white.
“It was a big animal, and it was a really impressive video. I am sure it was very exciting. It does look like a great white to me, and I would agree with their size estimate,” Hendon said. “To see such a big shark like the great white, it was very eye-opening to have that show up. Are they out there? Yes. But to have them caught on the beach and able to be landed and confirmed was an eye-opening sight for sure.”
Weir and Kenny do not offer charters in Alabama but were in Orange Beach fishing with. Weir said he contacted Jason Downey, chief enforcement officer for the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to get guidelines for shark fishing on Alabama’s beaches.
Weir has been shark fishing for nine years, and Kenny joined the team in 2021. Their charters start at sundown. The duo sets up the equipment and kayak the bait anywhere from 200 to 800 yards off the beach. On March 7, the bait was 600 yards off the beach when the shark took it.
In the video (search Coastal Worldwide on YouTube or Facebook) you can hear the line on the fishing pole running fast. Wier was still in a kayak dropping the second bait around 250 yards when he heard it.
“I was in the kayak when they set the hook, and at the time I didn’t worry about it. Sharks don’t hunt humans, thankfully, so I wasn’t worried that he was hooking a shark while I am out here,” Weir said with a laugh. “When I saw the result for the first time I was like, ‘Wait, I was in the kayak when that thing was eating our bait.’”
From the time the shark bit the bait until they released it back into the Gulf was just 32 minutes. Weir said it is important to use big gear and be fast because you are responsible and liable for the fish’s health.
“That is something we try to push through the education side of people wanting to get into the shark game. You have got to use big gear. We are using a Tiagra 130. It is the biggest reel in production in the U.S., 1,600 yards of 200-pound braid with a 200-pound vinyl top shot. Then the leader was a 600-pound leader and 800-pound cable. We were using 55 pounds of drag especially when we knew it was starting to pull hard and a sizable fish,” Wier said.
“The first thing that goes through our minds and the first thing that should go through anyone’s mind shark fishing is when that fish hooks and it is big, you start pushing the drag up. It doesn’t matter if you are scared you are going to lose it or pull the hook. You are now responsible and liable for that fish’s health. Get that thing in as fast as possible, and then get it out as fast as possible,” Wier said.
According to Wier, this is the fifth great white to be caught from the beach this year on the panhandle. Three were caught by Big John Shark Fishing and one by a man from Texas who was fishing in Pensacola.
He believes this is the first great white shark to be caught and landed from shore in Alabama, but that could not be confirmed.
According to Southern Mississippi’s Hendon, great white sharks are common in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Many people don’t think of them as a true resident of the Gulf of Mexico, but they are present. Typically solitary in nature, they typically like cooler waters. So, to me it makes sense that this would be the time of year that they would encounter them as opposed to during the higher water temperatures that are seen during the summertime,” Hendon said.
The coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico are home to several species that are more prominent, such as the Atlantic sharpnose shark.
“It is probably top as far as density factor does. They only get to be about 3 feet in length. When we move a little further out, we start to get more of your blacktips or spinner sharks, scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, and we have bull sharks,” Hendon said.
Most of the sharks that humans encounter in these coastal waters are juveniles. The adults live farther offshore in deeper waters.
Hendon said humans are not on sharks’ menu.
“Sharks are going to prefer items that have higher fat densities or different qualities in their fat that are going to help build their bodies and sustain their metabolism,” Henson said. “When you hear about sharks being able to detect a drop of blood, yes that is absolutely certain. They have very heightened and very able senses, but does that make them go on feeding frenzies or want to eat whatever they have sensed? Absolutely not.”
Hendon went on to explain that sharks are attracted to chemicals released from the muscle decomposition of fish. When it is said sharks are attracted to a drop of blood, they are going for that chemical.
When it comes to shark attacks, Hendon said attack is the last word that she would. When humans see something new or want to learn something about our environment, we have hands. Sharks are very similar to your new puppy; they explore with their mouth or in a shark's case, its head.
“They don’t have an easy way to sense their environment. The majority of their sensory organs are concentrated in their head and snout region,” Hendon explained. “Inherently, that is going to be what they are going to put forward to explore their environment. Often times when you do have these encounters, it is a case of the shark meeting up with whatever it is encountering and then taking off and never coming back because they realize it is not a meal.”
Sharks are integral to the environment. They feed upon dead and dying organisms and help keep our waters clean. They help keep fish populations in check by preying on the most abundant species. Quite simply, Hendon said, they inherently balance the ocean environment.
For more information on the work and research conducted by the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, visit www.usm.edu/fisheries-research-development.