“That is 100 percent a goddamn shark!” someone yelled as the young boy struggled with a massive fish at the end of this line. The 12-year-old and his mother were currently off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, visiting the Sunshine State to soak up the state’s winter warmth. And what is more quintessential Florida than spending the day out fishing? At best, they were hoping to catch something, looping the tuna at the end of his hook and dropping the line in. But none of them were expecting him to pull in a shark – let alone the most famous one.
“You guys got a giant great white!” one of the crewmembers cried out when they realized what was on the other end of the line. “This is like the most sought after fish in the ocean.” Wrestling for 45 minutes to bring the giant up to the surface, it was a team effort to reel in the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). “I was a little bit nervous — like, I don’t know if I want to go up against a shark,” Campbell Keenan told CBS News of his 11-foot-long trophy quarry. “But it did make me really excited.”
The largest predatory fish on the planet, the great white shark lives in coastal waters all around the world. In the past, it was believed sharks did not roam the waters around the Sunshine state, but science has proved that is not true. Thanks to international researchers attaching satellite tags on these animals, we’ve slowly been able to see that these sharks are no strangers to Florida’s coastline. A number of large tagged white sharks have “pinged” off the coast of the Sunshine State over the years, both in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico; pings occur when sharks with tags surface and send satellite signals containing time and date. “I hear from people all the time who are excited because Florida now has white sharks,” Tyler Bowling, program manager for the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File told News Press back in 2020. “But they’ve always been here.” It’s believed many mimic human ‘snowbirds,’ migrating to the warmer waters to escape the cold – just like Campbell and his mother Colleen had done.
“This is a no brainer for hanging on the wall,” one of the crew members was captured saying on camera. However, that would be impossible. It is illegal in Florida to land or possess protected shark species such as lemon, tiger, white, hammerheads and 22 others. In American waters, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act protects this vulnerable species. Ultimately, the mother-son duo suggested tagging and releasing it back into the ocean so researchers could study its movements. It is unclear what tag was used.
While this is a story Keenan will always remember, he isn’t the first person to unintentionally catch this famed predator. Many have similar tales around the USA! Off the Long Island coast, New York City captain Tom LaCognata told the Post sometimes hooks great whites measuring 6 – 7 feet (1.8 – 2.1 meters) long: “We were able to get [them] close to the boat and just cut the line.” Classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it’s mandatory that great white sharks are released when hooked. If illegal activities are seen with sharks around Florida, the public is urged to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which manages and regulates the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Or you can report incidents online or call 888-404-FWCC (3922). Cellular phone users can also call *FWC or #FWC, or send a text to [email protected]