KEKAHA — Fishing from the shore at Kekaha Beach, Robbie Correa heard the ring of a bell from his pole, meaning that he had a bite.
Grabbing the rod, the 16-year-old Waimea High School student felt a hard pull — stronger than he had ever experienced before.
Correa is a longtime fisherman who has caught marlins, ahis and once even hooked 60-pound ulua. But this was different. He guessed that this could be an even bigger ulua but he wasn’t sure.
“You never know what it could be when you’re fishing,” said Correa.
Correa cranked the reel while his friends helped him with the pull, in what proved to be an exhausting two-and-a-half-hour battle.
Though he considered giving up midway through, he was resolved to pull the thing up and see what it was.
The boys were shocked when, finally, a tiger shark he estimated to be 16-feet-long emerged from the ocean, hooked to the end of the line last month.
“I was like ‘Oh my god this is crazy,’” said Correa. “I’ve never seen anybody pull up a tiger shark that big before.”
Correa grabbed the shark by the tail, “kinda figuring things out as (he) was going,” and with his friends’ assistance, pulled the 700-pound creature onto the beach and took the hook out of its mouth.
After taking some pictures to capture the moment of glory, they released it and watched it swim away.
“I had the biggest adrenaline rush ever,” Correa said in a phone interview this week, while back out fishing. “Never in a million years, I thought I was going to catch something that big onshore.”
An Instagram post of the catch went viral, garnering thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
Though there was a good amount of support for the boys, some commenters were concerned that the shark had been brought onto the beach before release, which can be harmful to the animal.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources recommends that if a shark is caught accidentally from a boat, fishers should avoid bringing it onto the vessel and cut the line as close to the shark’s mouth as can be safely done.
Correa said later that he learned he should have cut the line and not brought the shark up onto the beach.
The catch is under investigation by DLNR as a potential violation of a measure passed last legislative session that bans shark fishing.
The law states that, under penalty of a $500 dollar fine for a first offense, “no person shall knowingly capture or entangle any shark, whether alive or dead, or kill any shark, within state marine waters.”
Since the shark was caught unintentionally, Correa is confident that he is in the clear.
Though shark attacks are extremely rare events — DLNR reports three to four incidents occur per year on average, making the odds of being bitten by a shark less than one in a million — Tiger Sharks like the one Correa pulled in are among the most aggressive toward humans.
The creatures feature a rounded snout, curved, serrated teeth and a strong spotting pattern that turns to stripes as they age, DLNR says. Eating a wide variety of marine animals, carrion and debris, they have been called the “garbage can of the sea.”
Last February, a tiger shark bit down on the tip of a Kaua‘i resident Gavin Klein’s short board while he was surfing Waiokapua Bay.
Correa said he was worried about getting bit while grabbing the shark last week, but that it was worth the risk.
“It was a once in a lifetime catch,” he said.
Source: The Garden Island
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