On April 15, Florida angler Joey Polk brought in an 11-foot, 805-pound mako shark with the help of his cousins Earnie Polk and Kenny Peterson. At the time, the veteran anglers were sure that they had just harvested the largest shortfin mako caught from land. This certainty stemmed from the fact that Joey and Earnie Polk each held the world record at different times with the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association (ILSFA). In fact, Earnie Polk still holds the mako record with a 625-pound shark the angler caught off Navarre Beach in 2009. This time, however, a recent rule change will bar the cousins from entering their newest catch into the association’s record books.
“As of January 1st of 2012, the ILSFA will no longer promote or accept record applications for sharks not released,” the organization states on its website. “With that said, our respect and support for angler’s rights including decisions to legally possess fish remains.”
Since the ILSFA was founded in 2006, the organization has promoted ethical and sustainable fishing practices, which included the harvesting of some shark species. While the ILSFA still upholds an angler’s right to legally keep fish for consumption, the association decided adopt a release-only requirement to its records in order to encourage more anglers to release their catches back into the wild.
As veteran anglers with both kept and released records to their names, the Polks said that releasing their most recent catch proved to be difficult.
“We tried to revive the fish and send him back out, but he was too worn out to swim,” Joey Polk told the New York Daily News. “That’s why we decided to keep him. We don’t do it for the money, for the publicity, just to catch the fish.”
The cousins kept a portion of the shark meat for themselves but gave away the majority to family and friends. Joey Polk may not have snagged the record this month, but he certainly enjoyed a few good meals—and there are always more opportunities waiting in the water.