A casual fishing contest for seven Florida bankers last Saturday turned into an epic struggle between most of the competitors and a 1,000-pound mako shark.
The great predator took a hooked slab of bonito about 16 miles off Elliott Key, whereupon it leaped 10 feet clear of the water before settling in for a deep-water fight that lasted four hours. Five of seven anglers aboard the yacht, Wound Up, took turns handling the rod and reel. (To witness the chaos alongside the boat, see the video.)
Warren Sands, the vessel owner who organized the excursion for graduates of Florida International University, said of the catch: "I've been fishing for 20 years, and tournament fishing for sailfish for 10 years and I've never been involved in anything like this."
Sands fought the mako for the final 30 minutes. The crew used two flying gaffs -- with lines attached -- and one straight gaff to subdue the beast and haul it through the transom door.
John Dudas, captain of Wound Up, said his previous big mako was a 912-pound specimen that had been seen surface feeding on a swordfish.
The 1,000-pound mako, which measured 12 feet, was spotted tailing in the distance. Dudas swung the boat around while mate Robbie Ramirez cast a slab of bonito, using a reel spooled with 50-pound-test line and a 2,000-pound leader used for sharks and marlin.
"Once he saw it, he came charging in on it, and he ate it pretty quick," Dudas said.
Said Dudas of the bankers: "They just love being out there, and to see something that big was very exciting for them, and was really a thrill of a lifetime for them."
The International Game Fish Assn. lists as the all-tackle world record a 1,221-pound mako caught by Luke Sweeney off Chatham, Mass., in 2001.