Kansas man experiences catch of a lifetime in California.
Caden Blankenship, a 2019 Pratt High School graduate, has a passion for fishing. And not for just local game fish in lakes and ponds around Pratt but for much bigger fish in a much bigger pond.
Blankenship went recently on a trip to the west coast with his family. He and his dad, Steve Blankenship, went fishing for mako sharks, something he has done before. Blankenship wanted to get a record mako but what he ended up getting was much more than that. To his amazement, he hooked a great white shark.
Blankenship, 18, was fishing with World Class Shark Tours in the Pacific Ocean off the Los Angeles, Calif. coast, by San Pedro.
This was not his first time fishing for makos. On past fishing trips he has reeled in a 30-pounder and a 50-pounder. He was 10-years-old when he caught his first mako and 13 when he got his second. The family ate the 50-pounder.
On this summer's trip, July 10, he started fishing about 9 a.m. They had laid out miles and miles of a chum line. Chum is a mixture of fish parts, bone and blood that is thrown into the water to attract sharks that have a very keen sense of smell.
Blankenship hooked into a 350-pound mako and fought it for about 10 minutes before he lost it. Then for the next five hours, nothing. Everyone was half asleep when a big shadow went past the boat very fast.
“We were hoping for a mako,” Blankenship said.
They prepared a two-foot, 10-pound, skip-jack tuna and threw it in the water. The great white took the bait and the battle was on. They couldn’t tell exactly what they had but after an hour and four minutes, the fish was brought along side the boat and they could finally see what was on the end of Blankenship's line.
“When we reeled it in, we could see it,” Blankenship said.
Everyone on the boat, including the crew was very excited. Great whites are the face of sharks and they are very rare in most parts of the world including California and Florida. World Class Shark Tours had only seen three great whites in 40 years and this was only the second one that had been caught.
“My dad and I were feeling ecstatic,” Blankenship said.
The great white was 11-feet long and weighed about 1,000 pounds. Battling a 1,000 pound great white for an hour takes its toll on the fisherman. Using an 80-wide reel, Blankenship was standing up in the boat and leaning against a bait box as he pulled and pulled to bring the fish in. There was a powerful jolt every time the shark would move its head.
“It was like being strapped to a car,” Blankenship said.
It took a lot of upper body strength including his core and even his legs. Blankenship, a high school standout football player and wrestler, said his quads were bruised after the hour-long battle.
“I had a very sore body. Those were the most well earned bruises I ever had,” Blankenship said. “The fight was amazing but I loved it. The fight is everything.”
When they got the shark up against the boat and saw it was a great white, Blankenship was determined that he was going to touch the shark. So he reached out and briefly grabbed the dorsal fin. Very few people have ever gotten to touch a great white so this was an extraordinary moment. A video shows Blankenship grabbing the fin while an underwater GoPro video clearly shows the shark swimming with the line in his mouth.
They didn’t know what they had until it was alongside the boat. Great whites are protected so it is illegal to go after or catch them, so they had to release it. After Blankenship touched the fin, a pair of bolt cutters was used to cut the line as close to the hook as possible, Blankenship said.
After they let the shark go, they fished for about an hour and managed to hook a 12-pound mako but it was nothing compared to making the catch of a lifetime.
“I felt like I had accomplished a life-long goal. Nothing is better than a great white.” Blankenship said. “It still doesn’t feel like it was real. That was the highlight of my life.”
To see the 10-minute video, visit “Gettin’ Reel” and click on Catching a Great White Shark (by Accident). Blankenship posted the video on instagram at cadenblankenship and on Twitter BShip1515.