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Florida Family Catches Great White Shark While Fishing

Newsweek 3/17/2023 Jess Thomson

A vacation in Florida took an unexpected turn when a family reeled in a massive great white shark on a fishing trip.

The North Dakota locals were holidaying in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when they went out on a shark fishing tour with Good Hit Sport Fishing and encountered the most fearsome shark of them all.

"Best day ever!" one of the family's children can be heard saying in a clip from local news channel WSVN, which showed the great white trailing behind the boat.

"All of a sudden, when it hit the one rod, it just hit it and it took off," Shaun Jacobson, a member of the fishing trip, told WSVN. "So we knew it was something big."

Great whites are large, predatory sharks found all over the world, although they frequent the coastlines of temperate regions. They can grow to lengths of up to 20 feet, and weigh up to 5,000 pounds, although they rarely reach that kind of size.

Florida is the shark attack hotspot of the U.S., but even then, attacks happen very rarely.

In 2022, Florida saw 16 cases of unprovoked attacks by sharks, which represented 39 percent of the U.S. total and 28 percent of unprovoked bites worldwide. None of the Florida attacks proved fatal, although five people are reported to have died from shark attacks worldwide in 2022, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), which is operated by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The likelihood of being killed by a shark is about one in 4.3 million, meaning that you are around 300 times more likely to die from sun or heat exposure than by shark attack.

Stock image of a great white. iStock / Getty Images Plus © iStock / Getty Images Plus Stock image of a great white. iStock / Getty Images Plus

The family reeled the shark towards the boat after about 40 minutes of pulling.

"We were alternating turns left and right, probably, what, 20-30 cranks, and then the next guy was on," said Jacobson.

Catching great white sharks is rare.

"I've been doing this for 20 years full-time as a captain," boat captain Adam Reckert told WSVN. "That's the second one that I've landed. The last one was about 15 years ago."

Despite the rarity of great whites being reeled in by fisherman, the same thing happened only days ago on March 6 in Orange Beach, Alabama, when two fishing guides pulled in an 11-foot great white shark.

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Great whites are categorized as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Populations are thought to have declined by between 30 percent and 49 percent over the past few hundred years. The major threats include plastic pollution, chemical pollution and overfishing, both deliberate and via bycatch in the fishing gear that's meant to catch other species.

"Large fish—sharks included—tend to be more sought-after by anglers, especially those looking for trophies. Thus, many of the large white sharks have been fished out," Joshua Moyer, an authority on white shark teeth affiliated with Yale University and the Atlantic Shark Institute, previously told Newsweek. "While the population of white sharks around North America is slowly recovering due to conservation efforts designed to protect them and their prey, this is a slow-growing shark."

After the family had taken their pictures of the behemoth, the unlucky Fort Lauderdale shark was tagged, released, and returned to the ocean.

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