Florida anglers who had hoped to avoid publicity after catching a giant mako shark from the beach last week might have succeeded had they not stopped for gas on the way home–with the enormous predator spilling from the bed of their pickup truck.
News spread not long after West Calhoun, a passerby, sent a photo of the shark to the Pensacola News-Journal. The News Journal posted the image on its Facebook page, with no details, and the peculiar image was so widely shared and discussed that the newspaper tracked down one of the anglers and, a day later, reported that the catch could set a world record for shore-based fishing.
Cousins Earnie and Joey Polk hooked the shortfin mako in the dark morning hours, on a Gulf Coast beach near Navarre. The apex predator, reeled in with heavy tackle after an hour-long struggle, weighed 805 pounds and measured 11 feet.
“That’s probably the best fish we ever caught,” Earnie Polk said. “You’ll spend many, many hours to catch a fish of that caliber, or a fish of that size.”
The International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association, which encourages catch and release and accepts tape measurements with estimated weights, recognizes a 674-pound mako caught by Earnie Polk in 2009 as the current record. Earnie and Joey also teamed to make that catch.
For the sake of comparison, the largest mako caught on rod and reel from a boat weighed 1,221 pounds, according to the International Game Fish Association. That catch was in 2001 off Massachusetts.
Presumably, the Polks hoped to keep news of their latest catch quiet because the shark-conservation movement has become so vocal in recent years. Sharks are slow to reproduce and vulnerable to overfishing, and many species are believed to be in steep decline.
The image was shared nearly 3,000 times, and while many of the comments were critical of the Polks, some were in support of the anglers. Fishing for mako sharks off Florida, after all, is not illegal.
The Polks explained that they kept the shark because it had become so weary during the fight, and they did not think it could swim back to sea.
So they trucked the predator home and planned a family feast.
“It’s about $10 per pound at the fish market,” Earnie Polk said. “It sells right along with tuna and swordfish. Between all of us, there won’t be a bit of it wasted.”