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As I sit here watching it rain for the first time on what seems to be months. I ponder decisions. I recently sold the Fat Jax to a fella located in Cape Coral Florida. It shipped last week and I have to admit, I have mixed feelings. Feelings of relief, and at the same time regret, the ones of the many, many memories I have made and provided for people in the last 15 years of running Shark Fishing Charters. An extremely satisfying journey I must say....

I can feel the warm breeze as I pull into the land cut outside Sherman Cove, trimming the twin 150's down as I point the bow to the east. As I gently, but purposely, pressure the dual binnacles forward increasing the speed at the same time raising the trim, the boat magically just lifted out of the water to achieve that perfect plane.... I head to (for this trip) Gulf Breeze Shoreline to pick up the ride. I arrive at shoreline to be greeted by 2 teenage boys, 13, and 16, and their Father. They arrived early because the boys were driving him crazy unable to wait to go Shark Fishing. We load up, I give the short safety and rules speech, and I realize the folks are simply nodding their heads looking at the Tiagra 30's and 50's in the rod holders. Not sure if they're hearing me, I slip in a joke to see if I get a reaction.... Yep, their listening.

As we depart, were running West through the bay, towards the pass, nothing but a slight ripple on the water makes for a easy ride. My brother Mark, was my deckhand for this trip, and I have to admit there isn't anyone I felt more comfortable at sea with, than him. I make some small talk about the Blue Angles as were passing just South of the Navy Base, and make a recommendation to visit the Aviation Museum as well and the light house while their in town, from Missouri.

As we change course to head South, through the Pass, the boys and their father gasp to see the horizon is nothing but water, clear skies, calm water and the building expectations of what may lay ahead... Were on a 8 hour trip, so we have plenty of time to make it towards the edge to a spot I have fished many times before and has provided a good number of Hammerheads in the 10-12 foot range, and a few decent Mako's from time to time. As I'm telling the family this, I can see the anticipation in their eyes.... (But, I always throw in the "We cant make 'em eat scenario...")

We see a few schools of Bonita on the way South, we stop and collect a few for fresh bait. The Bonita so far, are the largest and best fighting fish any of them have caught in their lives. (So Far...)

We make to a spot about 18 miles South of Pensacola Pass. While I'm figuring the current and drift, Mark automatically starts setting the gear in the rod holders, and folding the transom seat down out of the way, and going to the bow to set the anchor when I give him the signal. I point the bow to the South West, idle several hundred yards up current of where I want the boat to be when we come tight on the anchor rode. I nod at Mark, and out goes the anchor and chain in 160 Ft of water. As we drift back, nod once more at mark and he cleats the rode and the boat settles into its position for the duration of the afternoon/evening. Turning the engines, off, I make the joke, "I hope they start when it's time to go home....." I get the same strange look as hundreds of folks have giving me in the past. then I chuckle... relax, their Yamaha's - Turn the key reliability..." That seems to make people feel better.

Mark gets the bait tray set up while I go over the function of the reels. He's cutting a fresh Bonita in 1/3's and the blood runs down the side of the boat and gunwale, again, I'm not sure they're even listening to me, I slip in a joke, such as "Mark will be making sandwiched for us in about an hour...." Yep, they're listening.... lol

I have run the same set up for years, a couple baits on 12-15 feet under the surface in the chum slick, and a single bait 20 feet or so off the bottom below a trolling weight. so this is what we'll do today as well... It just works...

As were letting the surface baits drift back, each of the boys are manning a rod, ensuring the line does not go slack and create the dreaded birds nest.... And I'm lowering the deep bait down to its optimum depth.

Now, its time, Mark puts a frozen chum block into the laundry bag, along with a gallon of frozen blood, with just a section of the plastic jug cut to allow a slow but steady leak as it melts.

I explain, sometime the Sharks are here ready to eat, other times we have to wait on them to become aggressive and take a bait on their own.

As 1 hour stretched into 2 hours, we spend the time jigging for Amberjack, Kings, Snapper, Bonita.... Really, anything to give these folks action..... I can see fish on the sounder, but, this was becoming a challenge to even get the dang Snapper to eat on this trip. But from time to time something would hit, and not make it to the boat. This was a mixture of inexperienced anglers setting the hooks and the fish simply not feeding....

Okay, we have a nice established chum slick, nice juicy baits in the he water and friggin NOTHING!!!!! Its time to try something else.

Mark, I say, I need a Bonita. he takes a rod (The boys were taking a break) and what within a few minutes he's assisting one of the boys to get the fish to the boat. I'm bring in one of the surface baits in order to put this live Bonita out on a float.

Mark has the Bonita boat side in the water, I'm rushing to get the float and hook ready, (Can't bring them (Bonita) on the boat because they die very quickly...)

Ready!! Mark flips the 3-4 pound Bonita (perfect live bait size) to me, I unhook his jig, and insert the 13/0 circle into Bonita splitting the distance between its dorsal and tail fins. Back in the water it goes within 10 seconds..... Off it goes like a bat out of hell.... I was till pretty fresh and had lots of fight in it.

The Anglers are watching the precision non verbal communication Mark and I have, I think we did all this without saying a single word to each other.... lol

The live bait usually settles down in short order and either drifts back in the current, or holds in a steady position holding its place in the he current. This one decided to hold about 40 feet off the aft port corner of the boat, just staying there.... Okay, its out there.... Time for a sandwich on Marks nice little table.....

As were all grabbing a snack, making small talk, about jobs, school, and a myriad of other things. I glance back to see the float coming towards the boat. Slow, but still getting closer to the boat. I figure the fish is doing what fish do, swimming around..... then it seems to drift back out to its spot. I don't think much of it, Bonita don't stay alive forever on a hook.... 20 minutes goes by, 30 minutes, I'm starting to cross my finger in my pockets that something takes that dang BOBO!!!!

Then the youngest boy says "What's that?" with a little quiver in his voice. Simultaneously, we ALL look, and see what looks like a log on the surface nudging the FLOAT!

TIGER IN THE SLICK!!!!!! (I have goose Bumps as I type this, the memory is so vivid...)

I tell mark to get the harness out, this ones "Harness worthy" and get someone snugged up in it.... Mark chose the youngest boy, skinny as skinny can be.... he he The harness is snugged as far as it will go and still falling off the kid.... LOL

By this time I have the rod in my hands (first shark of the trip, and slow fishing, I figured I had batter get it hooked as not to miss the opportunity.

As the TIGER sank below the surface out of sight, I could feel the Bonita start to get nervous on the line, it started a fast run, then NOTHING! I waited, NOTHING. I felt no pressure, no resistance, simply NOTHING!!!!

The Dad and Boys were looking at the float, waiting, and watching, you could cut the tension with a BRICK, the nerves, and expectations were so HIGH! But, Still, NOTHING.... 1 minute, 2 minutes, I put the rod back on the holder.

Then as gently as it could be, the float start moving ever so slowly against the current parallel to the boat 30 feet off the port side of the boat. Then Dad shouts THERE IT IS!!!!! and Yes! There it was!! a solid 10-12 FOOT TIGER SHARK, and guess what???? He has the Bonita by the tail as he changed directions and angled towards the aft of the boat, and down current. The TIGER passed within 6 feet of the aft of the boat, just under the surface in extremely clear, calm water, with it's black eye that looked to be the size of a dinner plate looking it us as it went by.... (A memory ALL of us will have for the rest of our lives) I watched the TIGER swing its head to the left and engulf the Bonita. By this time the clicker on the Tiagra was clicking and we were about to get into a battle.

I had picked up the rod, Mark had the harness back on the skinny boy and I said, "I had better get this thing hooked, as I slid the drag lever all the way forward to just short of the "Strike" position. I watched as the line caught up, and the float started to get in line with where I thought the shark should be by this time. as I felt the pressure increase on the line, I lowered the rod tip and gently slid the drag lever up the remaining distance to the "Strike" position, while slowly raising the tip of the rod.... Pulling the hook into the corner of the Sharks mouth, for the set....

The TIGER was HOOKED!!!!!! (Even though he didn't know it) The clicker is going in a methodical steady clicking rhythm as the Tigers large tail swept from side, to side. Nothing fast (Big sharks don't run like the smaller ones to...) just steady clicking of the reel as the large TIGERS tail swept form the left to the right.....

Okay, its time to get the Anglers on this TIGER. The youngest was first, strapped into he harness as best he could be, I got the but of the rod into the lower part and mark hooked the harness to the lugs on the reel. It's all your from here on out I said.... (We had Dad hang onto a safety line tied to the harness) As we talked him into the rhythm of the shark, and how to squat and let the fish stand him back up, reel on the way up.... (This takes skill and practice if the largest fish before this TIGER was a 2 pound river cat) Anyways, it wasn't long before he got the hang of it.

By this time, I'm paying close attention to the spool, the Tiger is heading North East (with the current) and doesn't seem to be planning on coming back. Mark and I look at each other, he gets the Anchor Ball and goes forward to prepare to let the anchor go and we'll come back later to get it.... I lower the engines, (and yes, the Yamahas start LOL) I nod at mark, he responds 'Were free"

Mark positions the angler in the Starboard corner at the transom. and I maneuver the Fat Jax to keep the shark at a 45 degree angle off the Starboard side. we get a good amount of line back, by this time the second Boy is on the harness and locked up with the TIGER, Dads taking pictures and providing encouragement as only a Dad can..... ;)

After swapping anglers, (including Dad, (and Mark lol)) after a million,"this is better than cat fishing" Grunting, and OMG's... lol 2 hours later we see the TIGER on the surface 50 yards off the Starboard bow in the waves. The tail seemed like it was 5 feet out of the water as it slashed from side to side. I said its about to make a run for the boat. Right about that time, the Shark dove and mark was saying REEL!, REEL!, REEL!, as I increased speed in the opposite direction in order to keep the line tight. We went through this 3-4 times, as we could tell the TIGER was starting tire, all the anglers were wearing out as well...

After another hour, the TIGER is at the port side of the boat about 15 feet down. The sun has gone down, so its dark. I slip the Fat Jax in idle, I already had gloves on, and I grab the 250 LB wind on leader and start working the huge mass of TIGER shark to the surface with every bit of my strength, inch by inch. when the TIGERS head broke the surface of the water the into the light of LED light bar I had mounted on the T-Top, it looked to be 3+ feet across from eyeball to eyeball. The anglers were abused and beaten. As I'm holding this behemoth with all my strength (and he was just laying there in the water) I gasped out, You had batter get your pictures, because when he decides to go, we won't get him back!!!!

Seconds later, to all of our disbelief, with a mighty head shake into the side of the Fat Jax (Still can't believe he didn't crack the fiberglass, the entire boat shook and the stuff in he T-Top storage box rattled...) the 10-12 Foot Male Tiger Shark pulled the hook, and like a C-17 Globemaster, tilted away and glided out of visible sight..... With all of us being speechless, we did nothing and said nothing for what seemed like minutes.... Just us staring down into the dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

After gathering our selves up, securing the tackle and organizing the boat, we headed back to the anchor, and float 4 miles away for retrieval.

This was the last Shark Charter I was the Captain for. On the way in The Father of the boys was on the seat in front of the Center Console, and the boys were in the transom seat looking that the pictures of the trip on the cell phones.... They were asleep on short order, and I'm sure Dad was asleep too.

My Brother said to me on the way in. "If you're going to call it, this is the one to call to on..."

This trip completed my 15 years, of being the Captain of a "Shark Fishing Boat" with a 10-12 foot 800+ pound mature male Tiger.

It doesn't get much better than that. Release the Fighters....

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That is an awesome story. Great writing, felt like I was on the trip.
 

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Awesome story, nothing like going out on a high note. Those memories will last with those boys forever!
 

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Nice job telling this awesome story buddy. I know you are going to miss this big time, but as we discussed, age gets us, and these days, well, lets just say, I need to eat an advil, after just reading the story!!!
 

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This is what it's all about. Great memory...great story. Thank you. Sure hope I don't meet this thing underwater.
 

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Awesome story and experience for the family with you....I agree with others, while reading I felt like I was there.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
What a great story!
Just out of curiosity, what make and size boat is the Fat Jax?
25 foot Grady White
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Thanks for all the kind words.. I have so many vivid and detailed memories from this period in my life, I'm not that old, but getting beat in rough seas had alot to do with this decision.... I do have a fella thats going to be taking the business over soon, so I guess i can go along as an observer/deckhand from time to time... many Good Times! For the Anglers, and to be honest, I may have gotten more out of it than they did... I enjoyed meeting people and learning about where they came from, and their backgrounds. High level elected officials, to normal people like me. I've had celebrities (Took them back early because they were whining the whole time, you know, the angle of the boat..... ;))... One thing I've found interesting. The section of society I call "normal" (blue collar) were the folks that understood and tipped well. The wealthy/popular people acted like I should have taken them for free and hardly ever tipped at all. if they did it was like 20 bucks.... lol oh, I have some stories I could tell... still with all memories, good and bad, thankful for everyone of them.
 
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