Craig Winters, a Texas angler who traveled to Southern California in pursuit of a giant mako shark, thought he was going to have to settle on a mere 400-pound specimen that appeared off the yacht’s stern. A bait was cast, and Winters waited, but suddenly a much larger shark swooped in and stole away with the bait.
“We were going to hook the 400-pounder but then the big one came in and just took it,” Winters said. “I don’t even know where he came from. He just took it, and went.”
The mighty predator fought for four hours, jumping once at the beginning and again toward the end of the struggle, and ended up being among the largest makos ever landed, weighing 917 pounds and measuring 10-plus feet.
Winters was wearing a belt strapped to the reel and at one point the shark pulled him abruptly against the rail, and threatened to send him overboard.
“I’ll tell you, for a 53-year-old that was a real chore,” said Winters, who was fishing off south Orange County with Brian Cope on a 37-foot yacht out of Mako Matt’s Marine in Huntington Beach.
They fished for three days. Cope had caught a couple of small blue sharks and during one of the days a large great white shark arrived off their stern.
“Matt told me how privileged we were to see the great white because there are only about 6,000 of these sharks in the world,” Winters said. “But on the flip side, he said, we’re not going to see any other sharks as long as he was here.”
Great white sharks are protected off California. Winters and Cope were after trophy-sized makos, and finally got one.
The shark was too heavy to be hauled onto the boat so it was towed back to port. It was weighed Wednesday night on a certified scale at a Los Angeles meat processing plant.
Winters, who presumably kept the jaws, left the meat with the plant, to be donated to area homeless shelters.
Winters’ catch was made just days before the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, last major beach weekend of the summer.
–Image shows Craig Winters (left), Brian Cope and Mako Matt with a 917-pound mako shark caught off Orange County, Calif.