25 Jul This 926-pound mako shark was almost the largest ever caught in NJ
BRIELLE, N.J. — A little before midnight Friday the Jenny Lee charter boat got a visit from the largest shark the boat’s two captains have ever seen.
A shark was so powerful it broke a fiberglass fishing rod that the boat’s six-man charter was using to land it. If it weren’t for a technicality, the 926-pound mako shark would be a new sportfishing state record.
“When I first saw the shark, I thought, ‘We hooked a great white shark.’ It didn’t look real. It was the biggest fish I’d ever seen. Its head was the size of a garbage can,” said Capt. Dave Bender, 61 of Wall, N.J., the charter boat’s owner.
Bender, along with his second captain, Kevin Gerrity, hooked the 12-foot, 926-pound short fin mako shark during an overnight charter that left from the boat’s dock here.
The catch happened just in time for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which began Sunday, and while another shark, a great white shark named Hilton, made news when it showed up Friday along the New Jersey coast.
The 44-foot Jenny Lee charter boat was about 100 miles from the Manasquan Inlet and a few miles east of an area called the 100-square, a fishing ground in the Hudson Canyon, when it caught the mako shark.
The shark eclipsed the state record 856-pound mako shark caught in 1994. However, because of the rules of New Jersey’s Record Fish Program, which has records dating to the 1960s, the shark won’t set a new mark.
“We passed the (fishing) rod off. To be a record, only one fisherman can handle the rod,” Bender said. “Still a great catch, though. You can’t lose sight of that.”
The largest mako shark, a fish found commonly in temperate Atlantic Ocean waters, known to be caught on rod and reel was 1,300 pounds. That was in 2013 off the coast of North Carolina.
Mako sharks typically measure about 10 feet in length and weigh 130 to 300 pounds.
Bender, Gerrity and their six-man charter spent the day trolling the canyon for tuna. They reeled in a 35-pound yellowfin and released three smaller tuna.
“The fishing was slow. We were hoping for a little 200-pound mako or swordfish during the night,” Gerrity said. “Little did I know we’d hook Jaws.”
Gerrity, 60 of Point Pleasant, N.J., was referring to the 1975 Hollywood blockbuster movie about a great white shark Jaws, based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name.
The boat was drifting southeast in 1,500 feet of water on a hot, hazy night when the shark grabbed a rod baited with a small skipjack tuna and squid combination.
The shark, capable of speeds more than 40 miles an hour, ran from them, nearly emptying 500 yards of fishing line off the reel. The shark jumped out of the water once. The mako’s force broke the tip of a fiberglass rod before it gave up.
“The charter fought it for an hour. It took us another two hours to get in the boat,” Gerrity said.
The fish was weighed at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle. Gerrity cleaned the shark and said those who had paid for the trip took the “whole fish, the jaws, the tail, everything home.”