For angler Derek Keeny, pulling in a great white shark from shore in the Gulf of Mexico was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For biologists, it was an oddity. Great whites are rarely found in that region, and even more rarely caught by anglers from shore. Yet on Sunday Keeny and other members of his fishing club Dark Side Sharkers—Kyle Register and Gabriel Smeby—brought in this 10-foot great white near Panama City.

“It just kind of looked like a big dusky (shark) at first,” Smeby told “We couldn’t really tell because we were without lights for the most part. We had a couple of flashlights, but that’s about it. Then it kind of rolled sideways in the surf and we realized it was a white shark.”

The three men were all experienced shark anglers, yet none expected to see a great white emerge from the waves that night. They speculated that Keeny’s catch may have been the first land-based great white to ever be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, or at least the first one to be so well documented. After after a 45-minute fight, Smeby ran to his truck to for a camera, hoping to get a few pictures of the fish as it thrashed around. Yet, to the anglers’ surprise, the great white was remarkably calm.

“”We were in a hurry trying to tag it and get it back in the water,” Smeby told The Pensacola News Journal. “We are into conservation. We pride ourselves in quick release.”

The anglers call it CPR: or catch, photograph, release. As a bonus, Smeby and his friends also routinely tag sharks as part of a program run by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which with an adolescent shark like this one, can provide useful data.

Though they released the shark in excellent condition, the anglers are receiving a bit of criticism for not releasing it quicker, even from biologists.

“As great as it is to see this handsome male juvenile White shark, it is the responsibility of the angler to release the protected species ASAP once identified, whether they are tagging with a program or not. These regulations are set in place to help ensure the survival and safety of the protected species in the end,” posted Marine Conservation Science Institute on Facebook.

The anglers responded by saying they put as little stress on the fish as possible and kept it in the shallows for only a short while.

“It’s been a life-long goal to catch a great white,” Smeby said. “We never thought we’d do it in the Florida Panhandle.”

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