MYRTLE BEACH, SC — Fishermen, locals and a university shark biologist are still clamoring about an estimated 700-pound, 14-foot tiger shark found in the Atlantic Ocean last weekend off the shores of North Myrtle Beach.
Six Marines from Camp LeJeune were visiting the area for a bachelor party when they decided to take a shark charter at Fish Hook Charters on Aug. 17.
Capt. Richard Long Jr., a third-generation fisherman and captain of the Fish Hook No. 2 vessel that day, said he, the boat's mate Brandon Johnson, and the six Marines were aboard the 43-foot boat in about 35 feet of water around three miles off shore when they spotted the shark.
"I've not seen nobody put a shark like that to pier in my years as a fisherman," Long said. "We saw him swim by and we chased him with our boat for over 2 1/2 miles. When we caught him, we actually handled this shark with no gun, no harpoon... we tied a rope noose on her tail. We drug her backwards, which caused her to drown."
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Tiger sharks are one of the top three sharks implicated in unprovoked fatal attacks throughout the world, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Off the Atlantic coast of the United States, tiger sharks are found from Cape Cod, Mass., to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, according to the NOAA website. This sharks inhabits coastal waters close to shore to outer continental shelf and offshore including oceanic island groups, the NOAA website states.
Tiger sharks are one of the larger shark species, and the largest individuals are believed to exceed 18 feet and 2,000 pounds, according to the NOAA, and adults mature at about 9 feet.
Long said half the battle is catching the shark and the other half is bringing the shark in if the charter tourist wants to keep it. South Carolina law allows people to keep one shark per boat per trip if it exceeds 54 inches, said Ronnie Atkinson of Fish Hook Charters.
"We don’t kill them unless people are going to keep them," Atkinson said. "That was a huge one."
Fishermen, and the tourists, used bonito for bait.
Alex Rhyne, who lives in nearby Paradise Island in Little River, said there were about 40 or 50 people gathered in the parking lot at nearby Captain Poo’s Bar & Grill to see the massive catch.
"Being that close to the shore like that, I’ve never seen that," Rhyne said. "This is the real thing."
It's still quite a ways away from the record-breaking shark Walter Maxwell landed on June 14, 1964 – a 1,780-pound tiger shark from the end of Cherry Grove Fishing Pier in North Myrtle Beach.
Samuel Gary, boat operations manager for the marine science department at Coastal Carolina University, said tiger sharks are pretty common in the area, but one this size is very rare.
"They are very common off of our coast," he said. "They travel quite a bit. They are transients by nature. They don't typically hand around in one spot very long."
Gary said the university has used long lines to discover sharks, but mostly near the Garden City area. He said the longest the university has caught was a little longer than 11 feet.
"This is pretty large animal that they caught," Gary said.
They develop to be great eaters, he said, which include fish and turtles.
He said three miles is not too much of a concern for residents and, in fact, the university has caught sharks closer than that. He said with fall right around the corner, tiger sharks take cues from the shorter days, the fish it eats and temperature changes and begin to migrate south from the Chesapeake Bay area. He said just because people don't hear about sharks daily, doesn't mean they're not out there.
"I think they’re always out there," Gary said. "They’re just always after fish."