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The One That Didn’t Get Away

August 24, 2011

Despite the fear Shark Week might create, Sharks attacking humans are incredibly rare occurrences, but even rarer still do human fisherman catch these mighty predators.  And catching a shark that breaks world records? That certainly earned a “Wow” from me given Ripley’s relationship with Guinness World Records.

But Brett Sinclair did exactly this with his cousin, Chris Bonnici, and his boat’s captain, Aaron Pierkarski as the group fished in the Dampier Classic off of Western Australia. Expecting much smaller game for this competition the group managed to reel in a 575-pound tiger shark that shatters the present record for the line class Sinclair was using by more than 220 pounds.  This is where Sinclair’s amazing catch crosses into Believe It Or Not territory – he was using fishing line that was rated with a breaking strength of just 13 pounds on a small 19 foot boat that was barely bigger than the shark they had hooked. And without understating it, this means the shark that the group eventually reeled in was nearly 45 times heavier than what their line should have been capable of withstanding.

Sinclair and his team with their amazing catch

Even compared to the Ripley’s shark exhibits, Sinclair’s catch is impressive, and can potentially cause an equal number of jaws to drop (pun regrettably intended). Much like Sinclair’s great catch, the shark we have in Times Square was also a record breaker – Donnie Braddick managed to reel in a massive 16’8” great white shark weighing in at over 3,400 pounds. Braddick’s catch in 1986 was accomplished with a much stronger line and tackle gear than what Sinclair had on his line, but in a funny little coincidence Braddick’s shark shattered the previous record for largest catch belonging to a shark from Western Australia – where Sinclair just made his catch. And hopefully this won’t cause any nightmares for New Yorkers, but Braddick’s catch occurred not too far from Ripley’s New York, just off the coast of Montauk, NY.  Can you imagine this pattern continuing? Going out to catch some bass while vacationing in Montauk, and reeling in a massive 600-pound shark? If only it were more unbelievable…

In a fashion reminiscent of Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea character Santiago and his great catch of a huge marlin, Sinclair’s groups had to pull their anchor and follow the shark until it tired out enough for them reel the shark in. Much too large for the boat, like Santiago, Sinclair had to tow the shark alongside his boat into port to have it weighed. If I were on that boat and had something as large as this shark take my bait it certainly would have ended up as another classic tale of ‘the big one that got away’. But Sinclair and his team had the experience to prevent this mighty beast from stripping their line, and were able to make a catch so big that it probably shouldn’t be possible, and almost unbelievable!


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