Father and daughter team: Katie Finkel mans the deck on the Shock’n Y’all

Capt. Neill Finkel helps his daughter Katie wash up on the docks Monday afternoon. She has been working as her dads deckhand for the past seven years.

When it comes to shark fishing, Katie Finkel says “bring it on.”

Finkel, 20, has worked the back deck of the Shock’n Y’all for her dad, Capt. Neill Finkel, for the past seven years.

Although they like to troll for king mackerel, more than 90 percent of their fishing trips are for shark.


While just the word shark conjures up thoughts of anxiousness or fear for some, not so for Katie.

“I get excited. I get all antsy … what’s it going to be this time,” she said.

“Sometimes it will circle the boat and you can watch it eat the bait. It such a cool thing.

“I say bring it on. I put my gloves on and wire that thing in,” Katie said.

On the deck

Katie, a former graduate of Choctawhatchee High, is one of about three females that works as a deckhand, commonly a man's job, aboard one of Destin’s charter boats.

“She’s a champ,” says her dad.

“She runs circles around some of those prima donna mates. But mostly I’m proud."

And when it comes to the big shark, “she’s not afraid to tell me if she can or can’t handle something.”

“If it’s over 250 I get dad to come down and help … because I don’t want to get my hands torn up,” Katie said.

Recently the two had a close call on the boat with a 400-pound hammerhead.

“He (Neill) put his gloves on and  started pulling it up and winding it in and his tail just came up and hit him straight in the face. Good thing he had his hat on,” Katie said, which helped to break the blow.

“It’s definitely an experience,” she admits working with her dad.

“We’re so similar that we butt heads sometimes. But we take fishing seriously and we want you to have fun, that’s what it’s all about."

But is dad ever over protective of his little girl working so closely with the shark?

“He usually tells me to toughen it up and quit being a wuss,” she said with a laugh.

“He’ll say, ‘stick your hand down there’ … no I’ve got fingernails to paint.”

All kidding aside, the two love working together.

 “I absolutely love having her on the boat,” Neill said.

“It’s somebody I can depend on. I don’t have to wonder if it’s done right, because she always does it right. And she’s not afraid to ask me how.”

The expedition

To get it right, Katie starts her day early. “My alarm goes off at 3 in the morning, seven days a week,” she said.

She gets down to the boat at 4:15 a.m. to run a check on everything from the oil to the transmissions, then she gets all the rods out and makes sure everything is ready to go for when they pull out at 5:30 a.m.

But it’s the customers that make it all worthwhile for Katie.

“My customers are awesome,” she said.

“You get to see something new every day. You have to wake up early, and it’s hard work in the sun sweating, but you get those customers that remind you why you are still doing it. To see the smiles on everybody’s faces when they reel in that huge fish — man I helped to do that.”

Shark fishing is not really that hard, and it can be rewarding.

“Shark trips are something different and not everybody is doing them down here,” she said.

“It’s kind of a waiting game, so we’re fishing for other stuff while waiting on a shark.”

On Monday they caught a cobia while waiting.

But the shark showed up. As a matter of fact, they caught two tiger shark.

“As we were reeling one of them in, we had about a 300 pounder just stroll by,” she said. They also saw a hammerhead.

“With our chum slick out, you never know what’s going to swim by,” Katie said.

Up close and personal

The Shock’n Y’all catch and release almost all shark.

“We get them close enough so we can take pictures and so people can see their reward that they have been working on for 45 minutes and sweating over,” Katie said. Then they cut the shark loose.

“We haven’t brought one in all year,” she said.

In recent weeks Katie has started a new trend — the shark selfie.

“I have plenty of pictures of sharks, but not with them … so why not jump in the picture with them.”

So with the shark on line and up close to the boat, it’s selfie time aboard the Shock’n Y’all.

“It’s fun and people are enjoy seeing them,” she said, noting she has posted them on Facebook and Instagram.

Not only does she get feedback online about her fishing expeditions, but from her sorority sisters back at the University of Alabama which she’ll be shipping back off to in a few weeks.

“They think it’s just absolutely cool,” she said, that she goes fishing every day on her summer break.

She’s even had some of her Greek sisters come down and go fishing aboard the Shock’n Y’all.

“You do this every day for real? Yep every day. You smell like a fish, yep every day,” she said of their conversation.

But Katie wouldn’t trade her time on the water for anything.

“It’s fun to open peoples eyes to what we do and I like to teach people while we are doing it,” she said.

“And I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful office view than that,” Katie said looking toward the Gulf.