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Two laps of Florida

January 5, 2014

The shark needle in the ocean haystack!

The events of this night have been well documented by my fishing comrades (here and here), and for good reason.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime happening.  Let me begin…

Ben and I returned from our shoreline exploration to find Ken in a particular state of affairs, over half a kilometer down the bridge, with a massive nurse shark of his own!

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Ken had been fighting this shark for quite some time and had gotten it under control.  Following the failed roping attempt earlier that day, we decided to walk back to shore to land it.   Unfortunately, along the way the shark decided to swim under each and every archway between the bridge supports.  The direction of the tide did not help, as it was washing under the bridge.  Eventually, Ken’s leader had enough of the concrete abrasion and gave way.

Following this excitement, all of our rods went out again.  Mine were baited with live grunts, which seemed to do better at avoiding the crabby bait thieves than cut baits.

It wasn’t long before I had another good take.  After a bit of a run, I had the fish by the bridge.  It was another big nurse shark that looked to be about the same size as Ken’s previous.  Once again, we decided to walk it back to shore.

On the way, Ken and I were impressed by how well the shark cooperated.  For large chunks of the 600 meter journey it would simply swim along my side, like a dog on a leash.  Occasionally it would swim under the bridge, but it would come out.

Unfortunately, the sharks’ cooperation allowed it to gain its strength back.  When we got to the second last bridge archway before shore, it swam deep under the bridge and stuck itself on the bottom.  It would not budge.

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There I lay, suck in a tug of war against a creature twice my size.  This continued for about twenty or thirty minutes before we had an idea!  I was so close to the shoreline that I could potentially give the shark just enough slack for me to walk off the bridge, on to shore, and pull from the bank which extended opposite the archway.  This would give me an angle to pull the shark out!

Exhausted at leaning fruitlessly over the bridge, I gave this a try.  When I got to the opposite bank, I pulled and pulled but the shark would not budge.  After a while of this, I was prepared to pull until the line broke.  If the shark moved, great. If not, so be it.

Ken coached me on how to safely exert maximum pressure on the fish while maintaining my safety.  If the line broke, the rod would recoil back with a tremendous force that could take me out.  Ken advised me to shoulder the rod to maximize the pressure I was putting on the fish.

I turned around, put the rod on my shoulder, grabbed the bail arm and spool with my hand, and walked.  I did this several times, each time taking more and more stretch out of the 60lb mono.  Finally, the shark was loose!  At this point it was probably more exhausted than I was, because it didn’t take much to reel it up to the break wall.

Everyone was there to help rope the shark and lift it over the sea wall.  It truly was a team effort and I was very grateful not to be in this alone.

At long, long last this shark was in our hands!

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We removed the rope and untangled my line and prepared for some pictures.  There was much cheer!  At this point we noticed something else was dangling from the sharks mouth…

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Ken and I got a closer look.  It was Ken’s hook!  The mystery of why the shark had been so cooperative unfolded before us, Ken had caught it already!  Ken was relieved to finally take a picture with his catch and we were all in disbelief.

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It appeared we had found the shark needle in the ocean haystack.

We were exhausted and excited to do it all over again.

At one point in the middle of the night, I had slept through one of my rods loosing line.  I would never know if it was another fish, a bird, or a clump of weeds.  Ken was woken by the sound of my spooled rod smashing against the bridge.  When I woke up later, I found it completely spooled except for a short bit of 60lb braid coming off the spool.  How I didn’t lose this rod over the side was just as mysterious as Ken and I catching the same single shark in the whole ocean.

As the night grew to morning, nothing else came knocking.  I guess this particular shark had eventually learned its lesson!

The next morning we continued to fish the end of the pier.  One of our chum bags attracted a school of herring.

Threadfin herring (the filamentous dorsal ray is not evident in this picture, but I did make a personal note of its presence)IMG 4108 1024x768 Two laps of Florida

Half-way through the day, one of my rods baited with a live wrasse that I dropped near the bridge supports caught me a nice black grouper.

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We continued to re-bait our shark rods, but nothing was around that wanted to eat our baits.

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Back north we drove, out of the Keys and ready for new adventures.  First, we had to re-organize the car…

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By this point it had already become quite clear to us we had brought way, way too much stuff.  We learned our lesson as packing and re-packing Ken’s car to get one little thing out of the back wasn’t any fun.

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