I was just baiting my hook when I heard the other line start to zing…. I called to my dad and he yelled to untie the rod from the bridge railing and set the hook. The moment I picked up the rod I knew this was no little grunt or undersized snapper on the line! I was pretty sure it wasn’t one of the tarpons that were lazily swimming back and forth beneath us either as it wasn’t heading out to the open water and it wasn’t jumping crazily, just steadily applying pressure and swimming in a more circular pattern.
This was the second time I’d had something of any real strength on the line, and I was desperately hoping that this time I would keep it on the line. Following my dad’s coaching, and the experience of fishing almost daily for the last 2 weeks, I pulled back on the rod and reeled in as I dipped it back towards the fish, then pulled back slowly again, reeling in a bit more of the line as I dropped the tip down again. It’s like a little dance that you do with the rod and you need to find a good rhythm so you don’t apply too much pressure and find yourself with a broken line swinging in the breeze. But at the same time, you want to make that fish fight for freedom so that it tires faster than you do!
Once I found a good anchor for the butt of the rod (thankful for the skirt I wear when I fish!), and got comfortable with the balance, I brought the fish close enough for us to see just what it was I had on the line. A beautiful 5′ nurse shark! My arms were already feeling the strain, but there was a lot more work to do!
By this time my dad had pulled out the camera, which I’d thankfully left turned on as it’s been a bit temperamental.
Now I had to ‘walk’ it down the bridge so we could get closer to the water to A: take a good photo! and B: cut the line as close to the shark as possible so it could go on to live a happy sea life!
As long as I kept the pressure up, my shark followed me as I moved along the bridge. Every now and then it would realize that it wasn’t leading the way and I’d hear the line go out a bit more, so I’d have to stop and do the dance again to reel it in closer, otherwise it could easily get hung up on the concrete pilings of the bridge, the line would snap and my adventure would be over! My dad was coaching me the whole way with cries of “Keep your rod up!” “Keep moving!” “Watch the line!” and I followed his instructions as much as possible, but the moments where I seemed to be ignoring him, it was more a matter of extreme fatigue as I was hauling in 120-140 pounds! (It looks smaller in the photos than it did in person! Honest!!)
I eventually made it down to the end of the bridge and my dad grabbed the back of my belt as we inched down the narrow ledge to get closer to sea level. I’m sure we made quite a picture! Once at the bottom I worked hard to keep the shark close so we could get some nice shots, and my dad kept saying “I don’t know if the camera is working!” At that point I was so exhausted I didn’t really care and was happy with the knowledge that I’d battled a big fish and won! Not a memory that will fade anytime soon!!
Specs: Slack tide on 3 mile bridge, about MM 65 in the Florida Keys. Caught with 3/0 hook on 40lb test line with wire leader. Bait was a fish head from one of our catches on our reef fishing trip on Saturday!
*Edit* – Upon further research, it was actually a 6/0 hook for those that are keeping score!
With luck, perseverance and good coaching, anything is possible!!! What a day!!! 🙂