Shark Fishing at the Gulf of Mexico Beaches in Pensacola

Adam Lopez with a great white shark he caught on the Gulf Coast of Pensacola in January 2022.

Adam Lopez with a great white shark he caught on the Gulf Coast of Pensacola in January 2022.

For anglers like Adam Lopez, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel has a special place in his memory.

Lopez, who enjoys targeting large sharks along Florida beaches, fell in love with the species at a young age and still enjoys learning about the different types of sharks he encounters.

“I caught my first shark when I was six or seven,” Lopez explained. “It almost pulled me off the pier. Since then I have been hooked on shark fishing from the docks and the beach.

Lopez, now 31, travels the state of Florida seeking the thrill of tug of war with big sharks on heavy equipment. Depending on the time of year, different species of sharks may be targeted.

“The way I describe it to people is redneck marlin fishing. This is the right gear if you want to catch big sharks,” he said. “We use 200 pound braid, 130 class reels on standing rods with 1200 pound cable guides and 28/0 circle hooks.”

In early 2022, Lopez, a Navy veteran, joined his military friends in the Florida Panhandle where their goal was to catch big sharks along Pensacola’s Gulf of Mexico beaches. Pensacola is unique because it has deep waters less than a mile from the beach, which gives large sharks the opportunity to come closer to shore.

On a cold night, the group settled in before sunset for a night no one would forget.

“We set up with big bait, I like stingrays and other sharks like black tips or bulls. I take them by kayak 200 or 600 meters from the beach. We like to target big sharks during the months of colder water because in the summer lactic acid builds up more easily and can kill them after a long fight,” Lopez explained.

“Just before dusk Brandon Adams, a Navy veteran, caught the first shark of the night,” Lopez recounted. “One of my buddies joked that he saw a mako jump as the fight started. He did about 300 yards of drag, but after that he got there pretty early. When he got close to the beach, we could see what it was, and his joke came true when we saw a blue dorsal fin because it was a mako!

Mako, although famous for its delicious table food, was revived and released by the group. A bit of an enigma for Gulf anglers, makos are seen on occasion but catching them is extremely difficult. Catching it from a beach is once in a lifetime, even for many shark anglers.

“Shortly after release, little did we know we were going to be blessed with another unicorn,” Lopez said. “We snagged another big shark and this one ran 600-700 yards of 80-pound drag. We could tell he was jumping and spinning with the way the line was acting, but it was dark at the time so we couldn’t see him.

After 45 minutes of tug of war, the King of Sharks and the focus of Shark Week were in sight.

“To all our surprises, I had landed a juvenile great white shark! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to land a Florida great white shark from the beach. I’ve only heard of two other people doing this, and no one has ever landed a great white and a mako in the same night!

Taking care of the large shark, the group unhooked it and took a quick shot while leaving it in the water. After reviving the great white, it was released into the Gulf of Mexico.

About Patricia Kilgore

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