‘You guys just got a great white shark:’ Fishing charter captain talks about rare catch

John McLean calls latest trip a ‘catch of a lifetime’

Big John Shark Fishing Adventures shows the moment a Great White Shark is reeled in (John McLean/Youtube)

PENSACOLA, Fla. – John McLean has quite the shark tale to tell.

In an interview with News 6, the Pensacola charter fishing captain shared details about the moment he helped reel in an estimated 12 to 13-foot female great white shark to shore. McClean said his fishing story began six years ago when he moved to Florida from Minnesota to pursue professional hockey.

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Unfortunately, his story changed due to medical reasons and shifted to a new adventure: shark fishing.

“I went to captain school, got my captain’s license, and for the last three years I’ve been running shark fishing charters off of Pensacola Beach under Big John Shark Fishing Adventures,” McLean explained.

John McLean with Big John Shark Fishing Adventures (John McLean)

On March 3, he said he was contacted by a group of seven people from Idaho who were looking for the ultimate fishing trip.

“They were looking to go on a fishing charter, and I was free that night, so I took them out and they’d never been saltwater fishing before,” McLean said.

He said he used a kayak to drop bait in the water about 350 yards off the coast near a sandbar. From that point, he said it was just a waiting game.

About 39 minutes into the shoreside excursion, McLean said something bit down on the line.

“You never know what you’re gonna catch, and you don’t know until it’s about 20 yards away from shore,” he explained. “I looked at it and I was like, is that a great white? And then I saw the dark black eyes, and the fin is pretty recognizable for a great white, I just turned to my clients and said ‘you guys just got a great white shark’ and they kind of all went nuts.”

Video posted to McLean’s YouTube channel shows the moments the female shark was pulled in just enough for him to dehook it and get it back into open water.

“The thing I realized is how endangered these sharks are, so my main thing was I just needed to dehook the shark and get it back out.”

John said he is 6′9 and pulled the shark back out into chest-deep water.

“At the moment my adrenaline was just like pumping! I didn’t really think much of it, but after I got back to the beach. I calmed down a bit, I was just like wow, I was just in chest-deep water with a potential 1,200-pound great white.”

Great White Shark pulled in Big John Shark Fishing Adventures (Big John Shark Fishing Adventures/Youtube)

He said his biggest priority was making sure the shark was healthy and swimming back into the ocean with no problems.

McLean said in all the excitement of the catch he never actually got to see the teeth on the shark.

“Definitely a catch of a lifetime. It was just, it was crazy,” he described. “The guys that have taught me this, have been doing this for 30 years, and they’ve never seen a great white before.”

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.