A 780-pound mako shark?! Anglers recall memorable Panama City Beach fishing trips
PANAMA CITY BEACH — It was at 14 years old while fishing off the Dan Russell Pier with his dad that Kyle Eldridge reeled in his most memorable catch.
Now, almost 20 years later, the 32-year-old Panama City resident said he has still not felt the same type of adrenaline he did the day he pulled a 780-pound mako shark from the Gulf of Mexico.
"It was 3 hours and 35 minutes and it was just nonstop chaos the entire time," Eldridge said of his fight with the fish. "It's an experience that most people will never have ... it was the biggest, most powerful thing I've ever felt on the end of my line, ever."
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He said that after he and his dad managed to reel the shark into about waist-deep water, the line broke and it tried to swim away.
"I ran down to the beach and my dad threw me a couple ropes and a gaff on a rope and I threw the gaff out and stuck the fish in the side of the head ... and drug him back up as much as I could," Eldridge said. "There was no chance I was letting him go."
Eldridge was among those fishing from the Russell-Fields Pier, formerly known as the Dan Russell Pier, early Friday.
While no one else interviewed said they had landed a fish the size of Eldridge's monster mako, James Butler, 58, said that he caught a 40-pound sailfish from the pier in the summer of 2019.
Butler, who lives in Atlanta but owns a home in Panama City Beach, said that while his battle with the fish was only about 20 minutes, it ran him up and down the pier multiple times.
"It was just incredible, the fight," he said. "My relatives were laughing because I'm old, but I was getting it. It was the most adrenaline (filled), emotional fishing I ever had."
Along with those at the pier who said their most memorable fishing experiences were of times they caught large fish, others recalled times that were also unforgettable but because of reasons not quite as fun.
That includes Timothy Mason, 55, also of Atlanta, who said that he and his wife, Jill, got very seasick during a fishing trip off the coast of Naples about four years ago.
Mason said that it was their first time fishing from a boat in open water. They also both turned down Dramamine when it was offered by their captain to prevent motion sickness.
Things didn't take a turn for the worst until about 3 hours into the trip, when they had already caught about a dozen fish.
"(When) Jill started to get seasick, I was kind of laughing at her and stuff ... but by the time we got back, I was so sick and (my friend) just said we were chumming the water," Mason said. "It's funny looking back on it."