Shark Week began early for a group of Southern California anglers who, six days before tonight’s start of the popular Discovery Channel series, bagged a 1,098-pound mako shark 20 miles off Oxnard.
The lightly-publicized catch, made after a 90-minute battle during an obscure tournament, is a potential California record and one of the largest fish ever caught off the Golden State.
It falls short of the International Game Fish Assn.’s all-tackle world record: a 1,221-pound mako caught off Chatham, Massachusetts, in 1994. But if approved by the California Department of Fish and Game, it will break the current record by nearly 40 pounds.
That process could take up to six months.
Sean Carlsen Gizatullin, the angler credited with the catch, told KTLA-TV, “It didn’t lunge out or anything crazy like ‘Jaws,’ but it was still intense.”
Vince Packer, captain of the 26-foot vessel on which the mako was landed, was more expressive.
He said in a phone interview that the speedy apex predator — makos have been recorded swimming in bursts of up to 46 mph — stripped line from Gizatullin’s reel so fast that he had to gun the boat, alongside the fleeing shark, to keep it from spooling the reel.
“We were going 25-30 knots in the same direction the mako was swimming, and she was still ahead of us, taking line,” Packer said. “It was the fastest fish I have ever seen. The whole time we fought the fish I was gunning the boat.”
The shortfin mako, 11 1/2 feet long and more than six feet around — it had a freshly-killed seal or sea lion in its belly — was ultimately subdued, but it was too large to be hauled completely aboard Packer’s 26-foot boat.
The captain and crew tail-roped the mako and attempted to winch it aboard, but ended up returning to port with the shark’s head still in the water.
The trip to the harbor, during which numerous problems were encountered, was such a slow journey that the team was disqualified for arriving 45 minutes after the final weigh-in call.
That cost the team, named Wickedsquid, a first-prize payoff of about $20,000. “But we still stole the show,” Packer said, adding that the mako meat was donated to a homeless shelter, and that parts of the shark were donated to scientists.
“But I kept the jaws for a trophy,” Packer said.
— Photos: Sean Carlsen Gizatullin (top left) poses with teammates after catching giant mako shark off Oxnard last week. Bottom photo shows the mako’s jaws. Images courtesy of Vince Packer