Ben’s Fish Tales

Every single fishing story is 100% true. My family had just arrived in Marathon Key, Fla. when my father and I began searching for a place to rent a boat for the week. Once we found a reputable shop, we immediately took to the water to try our luck at some reef fishing. The 20 mph winds made it impossible to pass the Seven Mile Bridge, so we decided to drift through the deep channels that flanked the bridge on the bay side. With limited prep time, the only bait we had with us was frozen shrimp and a few live pinfish I had caught by the dock before heading out. Our first few drifts proved unsuccessful, only landing us some small grunts and an undersized mangrove snapper. But as we moved out toward the shoals where larger schools of jacks and mackerel were known to feed, we could feel our luck shifting. On my dad’s first drop, a healthy 2-pound snapper made its way into the cooler, followed by several others of comparable size from my mother and sister. With the rest of the family getting bite after bite, I knew it was just a matter of time until I made it happen. Out of nowhere, I felt the telltale tap of a hefty fish and set the hook into a 24-inch jack crevalle. The fight was intense—those speedy runners can really move in the current— but I could feel him wearing out before long. As the fish approached the boat and my father moved for the net, I noticed a shadow approaching my catch from below. Was it a trick of the light? With a thrash that could tip a kayak, an 8-foot bull shark lunged for my jack, mad with hunger and determination. With a mouth wide enough to fit a beach ball, this jumbo predator looked like he could have been Jaws’ cousin. Luckily, the toothy giant missed his quarry, and we were able to net my fish into the boat unharmed. His hopes dashed, the shark retreated to the depths. Though we had seen a few small sharks in the shoals that day, nothing could have prepared me for that encounter. Ever the tug-addict, I was itching to hook into a beast of that size, but our inshore tackle would have been no match for the likes of him. My mother and sister had seen enough of the dangers that lurked below and begged us to head back to the docks. That day’s expedition was over, but I still harbor the drive to land one of those giants. One day, somewhere, I will be prepared for another 8-footer to approach my boat. When that day comes, you can bet I won’t be heading back to the docks.