DESTIN — Sunday marks the beginning of the Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week, but for folks along the Emerald Coast, every week is Shark Week.
Ever since the first "Jaws" movie hit the big screen back in 1975, there has been a fascination with sharks.
In the 1970s, Destin had an annual Shark Tournament. One of the largest sharks caught during the tournament, brought in by Capt. Tommy Green and Gary Jarvis, was an 846¾ pound tiger shark.
Why the continued fascination with sharks?
“It’s the last monster," said Capt. Neill Finkel of Shock’n Yall. "We’ve killed all the dragons and it’s the last monster you can catch."
The Shock’n Yall goes out every day in search of shark.
Some of the shark they catch and release include tiger, bull, hammerhead, nurse, spinner and thresher.
“We’ve got the gamut here,” Finkel said. While some shark can be kept, most of the local captains practice catch and release.
You don't have to go far to find sharks, according to the captains.
“They are (so many) sharks right there on the lip and on the beach that it would blow your mind,” said Capt. Allen Staples of the 100 Proof. The lip is the area just outside East Pass where the water turns from green to blue.
“If you knew what was swimming around all them people, they’d never get in the water. But they don’t mess with nobody much … rarely,” Staples said.
“You’ve got a better chance of getting bit by a shark up on the highway than you do out in the Gulf,” Finkel said. “They want to eat what they normally eat every single day (which is fish, crabs and turtles). If you worry about it, you’re just going to worry yourself silly.”
So catching a shark can be done in short order.
“In four hours we can make it happen,” Finkel said.
The average shark Finkel and his crew hook will weigh about 400 pounds.
Getting a big one takes a big hook, and large bait.
“The bait we use is about the size of most lake fish," Finkel said.
Capt. Steve Pixley of the Reel Deal does a lot of shark fishing. Seventy-five percent of his bookings are for shark trips.
On Wednesday, Pixley took a group from Indiana and caught three tiger sharks ranging from nine feet to 13 feet. They also reeled in a nearly-7-foot nurse shark.
“We fought the 13-foot tiger for almost two hours in four-foot seas,” Pixley said. “We lost two sharks due to them eating our snapper baits, but caught four very nice sharks and sent the folks home with several snapper for dinner.”
There are plenty of sharks to go around.
“There are more now than I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Staples said. “When they stopped the long-lining, 12 to 15 years ago, the shark just went nuts. There’s nothing managing sharks … they are out of control.”