14-foot hammerhead shark caught off beach

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Viktor Hluben is a Florida Atlantic University biology student who loves fishing.

He fishes freshwater, saltwater, inshore, and offshore. “I enjoy it all,” said Viktor, “I do not limit myself to one type”. Heck, he’d probably fish in your bathtub if you’d let him.

When he’s not fishing, he’s your typical college student. He enjoys weight lifting, free diving for lobster, and spending time with his girlfriend, Brook Crist. She’s been fishing “since she was old enough to hold a 3 foot snoopy fishing pole.” She credits her dad for her love of fishing and free diving.

Their favorite spot to hang out is also a typical hangout for Boca Raton students of all ages – the beach. But, there’s one major difference, they’re not at the beach tanning like the cast of Jersey Shore. In fact, they’re more nocturnal than a colony of bats.

Crist says Viktor introduced her to shark fishing, and said it best, “Viktor has sharks and fishing on the brain 24/7. You could definitely say he has shark fever”.

When the sun goes down, they get together with a group of friends that goes by the name Landshark Fishing on Facebook. Viktor, Brook, Ben Begovic, Garett Reingardt, Jose Martinez, Chad Bessete form a group that target, rig, bait, kayak, wait, fight, catch, release, film, and mix it all together for a YouTube smorgasbord of hardcore beach shark fishing.

When he was 13 he he saw a black-fin shark caught at the Pam Beach pier, and just a few years later, he went all in.

To put beach fishing for sharks into context think about boxing, actually, think about boxing before the entire sport became corrupt and had 427 divisions. It was once the greatest sport, mono e mono, and the ultimate combination of strength, skill, and endurance. When you’re beach fishing there is no fighting chair, no boat to back down, no electric reels, no air-conditioned cockpit, no seasickness, and no backup plan. It’s fishing’s version of Man vs. Wild.

Viktor targets sharks because “They are the hardest fighting pound for pound fish, they are aggressive, and the alpha species of the ocean.” Viktor had caught a lot of sharks, and a lot of big sharks, including a 12-foot hammerhead, but everything changed on the night of March 16, 2014. He hooked and landed a 14-foot long hammerhead shark, and within days he was on NBC News and ABC’s Good Morning America. His YouTube video has now gone viral, and he was on the front of Yahoo.com, side by side with Pope Francis, the Kardashians, and Johnny Manziel.

The tug of war with the hammerhead lasted over 90 minutes, and it ate a piece of amberjack. This is what I love about hardcore beach fisherman. If you easily get nervous, or have Gale phobia (the fear of sharks; I had to Google it), skip the next paragraph.

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I remember beach fishing off the Bali Hai Resort on Anna Maria Island as a teenager. We’d walk waist deep in the dark surf (scared to death), wing out our bait as far as we possibly could, and literally sprint back up to dry land. I swear it felt like we were running on top of the water, and we usually had more bird’s nests in our reels than the National Audubon Society. When I asked how he got the amberjack past the surf, his reply was “We used a kayak, and paddled out 300 yards.” So, for those keeping score at home: 14-foot shark vs. sub 14-foot kayak dragging a piece of bloody meat. Got the picture?

There’s something surreal about fishing under the moonlight. Everything is amped up, and it feels like you’re in one of those hardcore Mountain Dew commercials. You could have a pinfish peck at your bait, and you’re so wired it feels like Moby Dick on Brook’s snoopy pole. Can you imagine hooking this 700 pound beast in the dark Atlantic Ocean equipped with only a custom made LED light and a GoPro in addition to your fishing setup?

When asked about the entire experience, Viktor had this to say, “The coolest experience was seeing how viral something can go, and seeing peoples reactions, both good and bad. Also, sharing this experience with my friends has been great.”

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He also wanted emphasize this fact; he is entirely a catch and release fisherman, and intentionally uses non stainless steel circle hooks (they will ultimately rust out, and hook the fish in the side of the mouth). You can clearly see the shark swim away, on it’s own, at the end of their video. Congratulations to Viktor and the Landshark Fishing Crew, on the catch, and the release of this magnificent creature.

This final scorecard in this match ends in a draw, with both Viktor and the hammerhead winning this epic battle.

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