Fitting in a final fishing trip for 2017, angler Jake Gruse had an up-close encounter with one of the fiercest swimmers in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gruse, a deckhand for Captain Pablo Koch of Reel Coquina Key Fishing Charters of St. Petersburg, took a celebratory fishing trip aboard Koch’s 27-foot Cape Horn for his birthday. They targeted gamefish about 30 miles offshore in about 100 feet of water when aggressive predators began attacking all baits they threw out.
“It was pure insanity!” Gruse said. “It was one of those days.”
The “insanity” started late in the afternoon. After landing big amberjack while fishing on a wreck, the crew decided to drop down for something a bit larger.
“We pulled out 300-pound mono on a 12/0 reel. Within minutes, we caught a goliath about 90 pounds, but I knew a bigger one was down there somewhere,” Gruse described.
“Next we dropped a big jack, and a few minutes later we hooked a monster. After an exhausting tug of war, we had a massive goliath grouper boat side.”
On the goliath’s ascent, it turned previous meals into a cloud of chum as it regurgitated. This might have led to what happened next.
“Pablo’s flatline started screaming off the back of the deck. After about 10 minutes on light tackle, a nice blackfin was in the boat.”
With blood washing out of the boat as the anglers cleaned, another chumline was created. “Ryan Hanks and I wanted to make sushi out of it, so I started bleeding the fish. It bled for about 10 minutes.
“All of the sudden a giant fin appeared 20 feet behind the boat, it was a big shark!”
Gruse rigged up a bonita, tossed it out, and watched the shark attempt to make a free meal out of. As he brought the bonita closer to the boat, the shark was not about to let it’s food go so easily as it followed. That’s when they saw the size and type of shark.
“Its mouth was wide open, and its teeth were showing. I looked right into the evil eyes of a mako! It was an awesome sight I never thought I would see around here.”
The bonita was tossed back out now with the intention of hooking the hungry mako. It ate the bait instantly. Quick thinking, Gruse was very aware makos go beserk when hooked. They often go airborne, so he didn’t want that happening close to the anglers.
“I fed the mako line, I knew it would be dangerous to set the hook into the fish boat side. A minute later he realized he ate something wrong and flew 12 feet into the air! That’s when we saw the size of it. After a couple jumps the hook was thrown and the shark moved on!”
The anglers had no regret of the shark getting away, and Ryan Hanks captured the exciting moments while filming on his GoPro.
“That was the greatest, most adrenaline-pumping moment that I ever had in fishing.”
It seems like Gruse and company weren’t the only ones with their shark tale occurring this past week. On the same day Gruse and company hooked their mako, another angler spotted a large mako on the surface in 30 feet of water off Longboat Key. The trio of anglers can be found on Instagram for videos and pictures: @Grusome_fishing, @ryanhanksfishing and @captain_pabloks.
On Jan. 3, tagged great white shark Miss Costa pinged due west of Sarasota after spending a few days west of Tampa.
Wintertime seems to bring new creatures off our coast, so it probably won’t be the last time we hear of toothy critters swimming in the Gulf with the cooler weather.
For more information, contact Jon Chapman at email@example.com.