A great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was recently caught and released from an Alabama beach. It is believed to be the first-ever catch of a great white from a beach in the state.
Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny are fishing guides with Coastal Worldwide, which provides shark fishing excursions in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The two men have caught more than their fair share of large sharks, but they couldn’t possibly have prepared for what was about to happen.
In the early morning hours of March 6, the two guides were out with a group of clients on Alabama’s Orange Beach. They had been fishing all night long, but their rods and reels had remained quiet. That would all change around 4:00 am, though. This uneventful night would quickly turn into a night none of these anglers will ever forget.
Dylan Wier was in a kayak dropping bait when he heard one of the reels on the beach start clicking loudly. The line was baited with the head of a Jack Crevalle fish, weighing around eight to ten pounds. The bait was about 600 yards out in the water. Only a very large fish could be hooked with this rig, and that’s exactly what happened.
Kenny grabbed the rod and immediately knew they had hooked into a giant. The two guides and their clients all took turns fighting the fish. When one would tire out, the rod was handed off to the next person.
The guides believed it was possibly a large tiger shark on the other end of the line. Tiger sharks are among the most common sharks in the Gulf waters of Alabama. After a long night of uneventful fishing, both the guides and the clients were thrilled to hook a giant tiger shark, except that’s not what they had hooked at all.
When the fish was finally wrestled into the shallows, the two guides immediately realized there was a history-making fish on the line. Kenny began screaming, “Oh my god, it’s a great white!” The group had just reeled in a nearly 11-foot-long great white shark, weighing an estimated 800-1000 pounds.
The conservation-minded guides immediately shifted into high gear. A healthy release was critical, which meant the shark had to be freed as quickly as possible. It took just 63 seconds for the shark to be released.
Where Was the Great White Caught from the Beach Located on a Map?
The great white shark was caught on Orange Beach, a small city in southern coastal Alabama. Orange Beach borders the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Wolf Bay to the north, Gulf Shores to the west, and Perdido Key, Florida, to the east.
An Important Predator
Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the world. Adults can measure 18-20 feet long and can weigh from 2,500 to nearly 5,000 pounds.
The fish recently landed on Orange Beach was a monstrous catch, but the shark itself was a sub-adult great white. It may grow nearly ten feet long and pack on thousands more pounds of weight in its lifetime, though there are no guarantees for great white sharks. They must have both the prey and the habitat needed to reach their full growth potential.
The ocean needs a healthy population of these apex predators. Great white sharks keep the rest of the oceanic food chain balanced. Wier and Kenny understood the importance of this special fish and took extraordinary measures to ensure it was safely released.
History Was Made
Great white sharks are a rarity this close to the shores of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The coastal water in this region is often warmer than they prefer, so the sharks typically remain in deeper water. Great whites are also seen much more often in the cooler waters off the Atlantic coast than in the Gulf’s coastal waters.
The risk to humans from great white sharks in these waters is very, very low. Still, this remarkable catch of a great white shark was the talk of the beach. Alabama and Florida beaches are currently packed with college students on spring break. Some didn’t seem phased by this news, but others are certainly thinking twice about wading into the water.
Coastal Worldwide uploaded a video of their guides and clients landing this historic fish on their YouTube channel. In the video, Wier said, “That will probably be one of the craziest things that will ever happen in my life!”
He then turned to the clients and said, “You, guys, just… caught the first ever land-based great white in Alabama!” Their overjoyed clients were flabbergasted. So were the two guides. So is everyone else who hears this story.
Many fish stories are exaggerated or simply untrue. Anglers are not always the most honest people when telling of their exploits. This fish story, however, is absolutely true. And it may never happen again.
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