Anglers land great white shark on Baldwin County beach

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:12 PM CDT
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ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - Everybody loves a good fish tale and two shark fishing guides from Pensacola have one they’ll never forget. It was Monday night, March 6, 2023, when they met their clients on the beach near the Flora-Bama in Orange Beach. Little did they know that before the sun would rise Tuesday morning, they would land what’s believed the be the first great white shark ever caught from the beach in Alabama.

Coastal WorldWide's Blaine Kenny holds a 10-11 foot great white shark by tail prior to release
Coastal WorldWide's Blaine Kenny holds a 10-11 foot great white shark by tail prior to release(Coastal WorldWide)

After what had been an uneventful several hours, line began to peel off the Shimano Tiagra 130 about 4:00 a.m. It was the sound Coastal World Wide’s Dylan Wier and partner, Blaine Kenny had been waiting for.

“I’m running another bait out so I’m actually in the kayak, coming back in,” Wier recalled. “The Tiagra 130 has a clicker that you could hear from a million miles away and when I heard it going off, I thought that’s the big reel. We run that bait six hundred yards out. It was a jack crevalle head…about eight-ten pounds or so and when I heard it go off, I watched Blaine stick it from the beach and then, it kind of goes slack and he sticks it and for the first minute, minute and a half, it was dumping.”

It didn’t take long to realize they’d hooked into a monster fish. Both have caught their share of big sharks from area beaches, but nothing could have prepared them for what was about to happen. First, they just had to focus on getting it to the beach and for that, it was all hands on deck.

“It one-hundred-percent took every one of us to reel that fish in,” Kenny said. “Everybody cranking and cranking and cranking until they couldn’t anymore and then, the next person would go and eventually, Dylan got in the harness and it was just like, we have to put more heat to this fish other than just the rod holder because this fish needs to come in as health as possible.”

Up to this point, the guides and their clients thought they must have a large tiger shark on the hook, which are common in our gulf waters. They were about to find out otherwise.

The fishing party took turns videoing the event and with Wier on the rod and the fish close to the beach, Kenny is heard yelling, “It’s a great white. It’s a great white.”

To say the next few moments were chaotic may be an understatement. The pandemonium quickly turned to a focus on releasing the shark as fast as possible. Sixty-three seconds later, it was free to probably never be caught again.

It you’re thinking this catch is unusual, the northern Gulf of Mexico’s leading shark expert would agree.

“They’re relatively rare individuals, especially in this part of the world and especially from the beach,” explained Dr. Marcus Drymon with Mississippi State University. “This is a very rare event and maybe, if those guys continue to fish from the beach for the next several years and never catch another one like it.”

Rare or not, folks enjoying spring break on the beach near where the shark was caught were shocked and just a bit nervous.

“It’s a little nerve-racking but it’s also pretty cool,” said Sydney Bragg.

“It is interesting,” added Anne Marie Sullivan. Just what brought him here? What got it here? Why is he here?

Dr. Drymon said the 10 to 11 foot great white was just a juvenile shark and the cooler waters we have near to the coastline right now may have drawn him closer to the beach. Whatever the reason, it is quite the fish tale about the one that was allowed to get away.