A great white shark has been caught near the Alabama state line.
It happened Feb. 26 when Huntsville, Ala., fisherman Jeremy Utter, a member of the True Blue fishing team, threw his bonito bait off the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, Navarre, Fla.
The longest fishing pier in Florida is also 35 miles from the Alabama state line.
Neither Utter, who visits the area every year to shark fish, nor pier worker Thomas Thielman could have anticipated what would grab the bait.
“When we got the bite, we did our normal thing and let him eat, then we hooked him up and it was probably about an hour and 30-minute fight,” Thielman told the Pensacola News Journal.
As the shark was being reeled in around 3 p.m., the group thought they had hooked a mako shark, which can look like a white shark. However, once Thielman got close to the shark, his eyes widened as he realized he actually had caught a great white.
“When we got the leader close, I personally grabbed the leader, and once we realized what it was, that’s when everybody’s eyes just blew up.”
The shark was pulled to shore where the group tagged it as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Apex Predator Program.
A data identification tag was placed on the shark with data on the date of the catch and, if the shark is ever caught again, the tag can be cross-referenced.
The estimated 10-foot-long, 700-pound shark was pushed back through the surf, eventually swimming into deeper water.
“It is rare, it is absolutely rare,” Thielman said of the catch. “We don’t get that many here. We see sightings of them, but we never caught one. That’s the first one our team has caught. We put a tag on it, got all the measurements, and got a safe, clean release.”
This is not the first time a white shark has been caught in the Gulf.
Derrick Keeny hooked a 9-foot white shark off Panama City Beach on March 1, 2015. After a 45-minute battle, the shark was brought to shore, tagged and released.
The sharks may be visiting the Gulf of Mexico to feed on blue fin tuna which spawn there.