Adventures Animals

Battling the man-eating beast of the deep

This terrifying monster could have eaten us all in one bite had he wanted to.
This terrifying monster could have eaten us all in one bite had he wanted to.

It’s an amazing fact that I am able to write this column after the Old Man and the Sea battle I have waged with a shark that can only be described as school bus size.

Assuming, you know, that school bus was about a foot long.

It was the fishing expedition of fantastic memories — me, my son, my dad, my brother-in-law and two nephews, visiting our friend Tony who routinely catches sharks that could at least impart substantial long-term scars on you.

My goal was to land one of those beasts. And, as I continue to retell the story of this catch, I am sure the shark will grow to that level.

Our adventure starting around 9:30 in the morning. As we headed to the dock where we would be fishing, I surveyed the water. Clearly, there were maneaters lurking in the deep.

We lined up at different parts of the dock so that we could delay tangling our lines as long as possible.

In short order, we all had our lines in the water. Tony told us to let the bait go to the bottom and then wait. My son Parker, who is 11, and younger nephew Nick, who is 7, heard this as, “As soon as the bait hits the water, reel it back in as fast as possible.”

After a bit of coaching, we had their casts settled in the water, and they sat and waited, ready to haul in the big one.

Parker got the first action. The tip of his pole started to twitch. “I…I think I’ve got something…” he said excitedly. The end of the pole twitched some more, and he began to do what any 11-year-old would do in this situation, which was to start to reel fast enough to generate smoke. I encouraged him to slow down and take it easy, which he did. It was not easy to take it easy, of course, since this could very possibly be the single biggest sea creature ever hauled in. Alas, it was not. But he did record the first catch of the day, a stingray that was about a foot across. He pondered whether there was any possible way to keep it as a pet, and we decided that logistics aside, arriving back home with a live stingray would probably be a nonstarter with Mom.

We all fished for about 10 more minutes without any action. And then my pole began to light up. The pole bent, and I proudly announced, “GOT ONE!”

Now I have done plenty of fishing in my life. And I have had some decent size fish put up a fight. I’ve also seen people fight fairly large fish. One such instance was on a deep sea fishing trip with my wife, when we were dating. She battled a hefty beast for a good 15 minutes, all the while battling the effects of being exceptionally seasick. As I watched her reel and, um, be exceptionally seasick, continually refusing assistance on either front, I said to myself, “I’m gonna marry that gal!”

Anywho, I knew I had something on my line, but it was not exactly the biggest fight I ever experienced. Clearly, I surmised, this Megaldon on the other end of the line knew it was no match for me and had surrendered early.

When it broke the surface, my first thought was, “Awww. It’s so cute.”

Once we brought the shark to the dock, we identified it as a finetooth shark, which I then learned can grow to six feet. I informed everyone that, should anyone ask how big the catch was, we simply state, “It was a finetooth. Those things get six feet long.”

We caught a few more rays and sharks, but my massive haul was the largest of the day.

We had a great day, even if we didn’t exactly reel in Jaws. At least, as far as we knew that day. It’s amazing how big fish grow after your trip. For example, did you know a finetooth can get to be 100 feet long?

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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