SHARK WEEK - Captain says: ‘It’s all about the fight and fun’

Katie Finkel, deckhand aboard the Shock’n Y’all, took this photo of a tiger shark taking the bait. The tiger, hooked and released on Wednesday, weighed about 300 pounds.

July 5th may have marked the start of “Shark Week,” but in Destin every week is shark week.

“I love shark trips,” said Capt. Ben O’Connor who was getting ready to shove  off Thursday afternoon for a shark trip aboard his boat 100 Proof.

O’Connor won the shark division of the month-long Destin Fishing Rodeo last year with a 215-pound shark.

Although they had to bring that one in to win, he said they release 95 percent of the shark they catch.

“If people don’t want to eat’em, we don’t kill’em,” he said.

O’Connor says he gets a lot of calls for shark trips.

“Thirty percent of my trips last year were shark trips. People are enamored with shark,” O’Connor said.

Capt. Neill Finkel of the Shock’n Y’all agrees.

“People want to go and catch a monster,” Finkel said.

“You can put a 500 pound marlin on the docks and people will step over it to see a 50-pound shark,” Finkel said.

While Finkel still does mackerel trips, 99 percent of all his fishing trips are shark trips and he has a 98 percent catch ratio of hooking up with at least one shark.

As a matter of fact, on Wednesday they hooked up with five tiger shark, all weighing between 200 and 300 pounds. After a few close up photos, they cut them loose to swim another day.

“We release about 95 percent of the shark we catch,” he said.

Finkel likes to take families shark fishing.

He explained that when the young kids see dad catch a shark, dad becomes an instant hero.

“When that rod goes down, their jaws drop open,” in awe of the monster from the deep.

And apparently the monsters are not hard to find.

“They are easy to find, but hard to reel in,” O’Connor said.

A shark weighing 100 pounds or less can take about 15 minutes to catch, while the bigger ones can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.

“They are one of the hardest fighting fish we catch out there,” O’Connor said.

 “It’s all fun and games to us, but they take it serious,” he said of the shark.

O’Connor and Finkel both use a 9/0 reels for shark fishing. O’Connor likes to use a 14/0 hook with 200-pound monofilament, while Finkel will use a 20/0 circle hook with a 130-pound line. But both like bonito or anything bloody or oily for bait.

Although they may differ some when it comes to tackle, the end goal is the same.

“Everybody has fun,” Finkel said, on shark trips.

“It’s all about the fight and fun and getting people close to a shark,” O’Connor said.