WATCH: Fisherman Lands 12-Foot Great White Shark on Pensacola Beach

Ah, yes. With the COVID-19 pandemic winding down at last, and with summer just over the horizon, many Americans are probably jonesing for that idyllic beach holiday that’s seemed out of reach for so very long.

Well, just when you thought it was finally safe to head back to the beach, a recent video posted to YouTube might give you pause before getting in the water. The video, posted by the charter fishing outfit Big John Shark Fishing Adventures, shows a man from Idaho reeling in a 12-foot great white shark while fishing off a beach in Pensacola, Florida, on March 3.

“I told them, ‘I’ve been doing this for five years and you guys just caught a great white about an hour and a half into the trip,’” John McLean, the charter captain of Big John Shark Fishing Adventures, told the Pensacola News Journal. “You may never see this again.”

McLean runs all-night fishing charters, which last either six or eight hours, in which he helps clients land the world’s apex aquatic predators while fishing from Pensacola’s beaches. McLean’s Instagram page features images of his clients alongside enormous sharks — including lethal species such as tiger sharks and great hammerheads.

Seven friends from Idaho signed up for an excursion on March 3. After dropping only three pieces of bait, something big struck the line. It took a single fisherman 40 minutes to reel in the shark, according to area news reports. The bait that snagged the shark was a 16-inch bonito fish.

The fight occurred in the dark of night. The fisherman stood on the white sand beach, wearing a headlamp. In the video, he leans his full bodyweight against the pull of the shark. The rod is bowed into an arch by the strain. At certain points during the epic fight, the man’s friends help support his weight — and give him cans of Red Bull energy drink to sip on.

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Great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

McLean said he’s caught 12-foot tiger sharks and hammerheads in the Pensacola area — but never a great white. After releasing the shark, McLean estimated the animal was about 12 feet long and likely weighed about 1,200 pounds.

“I would say it’s an 80% chance that you’ll catch [a shark] on one of my trips, but it’s fishing so you never know,” McLean told the Pensacola News Journal. “The coolest part with it for me is, you never know what’s going to be on the other end of the line. So this was just so unique and obviously a catch of a lifetime.”

Great white sharks are not listed as an endangered or threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Nevertheless, there are certain restrictions regarding the treatment of this particular species. Namely, anglers are prohibited from removing white sharks from the water to measure their length.

great white shark in Pensacola, Florida
Fishermen land a great white shark on a Pensacola, Fla., beach on March 3, 2021. Photo by Big John Shark Fishing Adventures via YouTube screenshot.

In an interview, McLean said he used a custom de-hooker with a reach of about 2 feet to release the shark. He then waded into chest-deep water to help the shark swim away.

“I’m standing there in chest-deep water and all I wanted to do was make sure this thing swam off,” McLean said. “It wasn’t until I got back and started calming down that I thought, ‘Holy cow, I was in chest-deep water with a potentially 1,200-pound great white shark.’”

Great white sharks can grow to more than 20 feet in length and weigh as much as 2,500 pounds.

In February 2020, researchers said a 15-foot, 2,076-pound great white shark named Unama’ki was patrolling off the beaches of Pensacola. Researchers had tagged the shark with an electronic geolocating device off Nova Scotia in the fall of 2019.

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