Last week Jason Fox (right) hauled in this 13.5-foot, 650-pound thresher shark while fishing two miles off of Florida’s coast. This shark is a monster for its species and crushes the Florida state record of 544 pounds set in 1984 (the world record is 767 pounds, caught off the coast of New Zealand). The following photos show how Fox, his captain Ru Rahimi and the crew were able to hook and land this record-breaking thresher.
Fox booked a trip with Reel Appeal charters for his girlfriend’s mom’s birthday. They spent the day offshore chasing dolphin and by 4 p.m. they were about ready to head in. But before they called it quits, Captain Ru decided to throw out some shark bait. He floated three baits in about 350 feet of water and within an hour one of their balloons went down.
Captain Ru cleared the other two lines while Fox took the rod and got into the fighting chair. He cranked down hard on the shark, setting the hook deep. The thresher responded by taking a long, furious run. Fox had been out fishing on the ocean before, but he had never gotten into a fight like this. “After that first run, we all knew it was a big fish,” he said. After an hour of pumping and cranking in 95-degree heat, Fox finally got the shark up to the boat. But before it could be gaffed, the huge thresher rolled and dove back down out of sight.
“Everyone on the boat stayed calm … I had the shakes going on but nobody else seemed too overexcited,” Fox said. Another hour passed before Fox could work the shark back up to the boat. This time Captain Ru was ready with the flying gaff. But Ru forgot to tie the flying gaff rope to a boat cleat … “At one point it was just me and a 650-pound thresher,” Captain Ru said.
The shark started thrashing it’s long scythe of a tail, but before it could break free, other crew members jumped in with more gaffs.
It took the crew another half an hour to bring the shark in. This is undoubtedly the most dangerous part of the process. Sharks have an uncanny ability of springing back to life after they are seemingly stone-cold dead. This shark broke the hinges on the boat’s transom door on its way in.
In total, it took four gaffs and three men to pull the shark aboard. As you can see in the photo, they were all careful to keep their distance until the shark was totally expired.
The most impressive feature on this shark is its tail, which measured 7.5 feet. A thresher’s tail usually measures about half of the shark’s total body length. The tail is used as a whip to stun and confuse prey, but it’s also an extra thing to worry about once the shark is pulled aboard. The tail of a big thresher can easily break bones or knock an angler overboard.
When news of the giant shark hit, Fox got a lot of criticism from online commenters for keeping the fish. But it’s actually common for shark fishermen to keep threshers, mostly because they make great table fare. The common thresher is in no way endangered in the Atlantic and its numbers are actually rebounding in some areas of the Pacific. However, on a global scale, thresher shark populations are declining because of commercial fishing.
Big threshers aren’t usually caught off the coast of Florida because they prefer cooler waters, which makes Fox’s catch even more unique. “It’s an amazing trophy [fish],” said Fox, who has been an avid hunter and angler all of his life. “I’m still excited about it … It’s just like when you shoot a really big buck.”
Florida angler Jason Fox went toe to toe with this massive thresher shark and finally brought it to the boat after a two-hour battle.