Over the years, Capt. Jay Sconyers has run into some sizable sharks on autumn fishing trips while catching and releasing bull red drum on hard-bottom spots near the beach.
The biggest sharks are usually tigers or hammerheads that either take a big piece of cut bait intended for redfish or attack a hooked redfish.
This episode was different for Sconyers, who operates Aces Up Fishing out of Murrells Inlet.
A week ago, on the morning of Friday the 13th, Sconyers took Andrew Nelson of Conway, Woody Rogers of Beaufort and Dave Hegler of Kershaw to his favorite spot to catch bull reds, located about a half-mile off the beach at Surfside Beach in 20-25 feet of water.
Never miss a local story.
As usual, Sconyers put big chunks of fresh fish, usually whiting, croaker or menhaden, down for bait on a standard Carolina rig.
Only about 10 minutes after Sconyers anchored up and the baits were dropped to the bottom, they got the bite they had been looking for, and Nelson took the rod. The four-hour trip was only the second in the ocean for Nelson, and he was battling his first red drum.
Nelson worked the redfish, estimated to weigh about 30 pounds, to near the stern of the boat. Sconyers grabbed the net and Rogers grabbed his camera.
“Just a couple more turns (of the reel) and I can get him,” Sconyers recalls telling Nelson.
Then, it happened.
As Sconyers was about to reach out with the net, a sizable shark launched itself from below to inhale the big redfish before splashing down and disappearing.
As they stood there, stunned at what they had just witnessed, visions of The Discovery Channel danced through the crew’s heads.
“It was a great white,” Sconyers said. “It was just like you see when they hit seals on The Discovery Channel. It was like an explosion, it was insane. It looked like a bomb went off in the water.”
Sconyers has seen his share of sharks, and he got a close-up look at this one.
“I saw his face and his teeth when it came out of the water, the triangular teeth,’’ said Sconyers, who estimated the shark was about 10 feet long. “I couldn’t see the redfish and his mouth was open. He just swallowed it, and that was a 30-pound redfish.
“If it hadn’t breached, you’d never know what was eating your fish. The teeth went past the flourocarbon leader on the Carolina rig, and bit through the braid (main line). There was no weight, no leader, no nothing.”
Nelson was left with an unforgettable experience.
“My first redfish, eaten by a great white,” Nelson said with a laugh earlier this week. “That’s hard to top. At least 3/4 of his body came out of the water. You don’t see that every day. We saw the face, the teeth, the jaws. It was an amazing experience, something I’ll never forget.”
Rogers was snapping some pictures of Nelson’s first redfish and took one just after the shark had eaten the redfish and was still at the surface.
The shark’s head, dorsal fin and lunate caudal fin (tail fin), indicative of a great white, can be seen in the photo.
Sconyers was left re-thinking how he will handle bull reds at boat side when releasing them.
“I’ve grabbed them by the gill plate and pulled them into the boat,” Sconyers said. “That isn’t something I’m going to do in the future.”