Anglers land shark to remember lost friend

Tina Harbuck

Nothing draws a crowd to the docks like a shark, but when the shark has a face painted on its back, the cellphones come out and minds start to wonder.

Thursday afternoon, the charter boat 100 Proof with Capt. Ben O’Connor at the helm backed in at the Destin Fishing Rodeo held on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar with a scalloped hammerhead shark. And the moment they drug the shark off the boat it was apparent there was a story behind the shark, which had the face of man painted on its back.

Wearing a T-shirt with the same face on it was Keith Biele, formerly of Destin and Capt. O’Connor.

“Back in April my friend Glen Peel got killed by a shark. So today was our way of doing a memorial for him,” said Biele, who now lives in Los Angeles where he is a graffiti artist.

“You know we like to shark fish, but this trip had a special purpose,” said O’Connor, who has won the shark division of the Destin Fishing Rodeo in years past.

The two men grew up with Peel in Destin, but since then, Peel had moved away to Shell Point near Tallahassee.

However, earlier this year, Peel who loved to fish and dive, was killed by a shark while diving.

“Based on the equipment that was recovered it was a large tiger shark, 10 to 12 feet long,” O’Connor said, noting there were teeth marks on all of his equipment.

The guys planned the shark fishing trip Thursday in his memory.

O’Connor said they left out of Destin after 2 a.m. and chummed all night and finally got their shark right at daylight using a 50-wide with a live bonito for bait.

“It took about an hour or so to pull it in. Luckily, we had that thing around the waist,” Biele said, referring to a gut bucket to help steady the rod. “I don’t know what I’d done without that.

“He took off and kept going. … All you could do was sit there and wait until he gets tired and reel when he’s not pulling away,” Biele added.

Once they had the shark on board, Biele painted the stencil on the shark’s back.

“The stencil that is on him I created with paper and fiberglass window screen,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever painted on a fish. I’ve painted fish before because I’m an artist, but I’ve never painted on a fish like that before. But it worked out well.”

As for the shark, it weighed in at 150.6 pounds and was the largest shark for the day at the Rodeo.

However, the face on the shark even surprised long-time weighmaster Bruce Cheves.

“I’ve never seen anything like it … it’s like weighing a drone,” Cheves said. “This man got killed by a shark and his friend that lives in LA drew that. I think that’s awesome.”