Tracy Jordan of “30 Rock” said it best: “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”
There’s a reason why the comedian’s words have echoed in infamy. During the late summer months of every year, the Discovery Channel’s popular week-long tribute to the ocean’s most terrifying tenant draws millions of viewers across the world.
Many of those fish fans may not realize that Alabama, a state with only 54 miles of coastline, plays host to several breeds of sharks with the Blacktip Shark being the most common. And if you’re brave enough to track one down, you might bring home quite a trophy.
“I see sharks every day,” says Captain Ben Fairey, a 40-year charter boat veteran who operates The Necessity out of Orange Beach, Ala. These aquatic killers can be found everywhere from near-shore waters to deep-sea waters, and especially around any structural objects.
“They cover a lot of ground,” Fairey says. “If you went to an off-shore oil rig, you might see anywhere from five to 25 sharks.”
If you’re trying to hunt down a shark or two, the plan is a simple one: as Fairey says, all you have to do is “anchor up and chum for ‘em.” Any sort of chum will do: fish guts, fish carcasses, or other blood-soaked animal parts should do the trick. “They’re not too particular,” Fairey says.
Once you get the sharks to the surface, though, it can be quite difficult reeling them in. Just ask Mobile native and Auburn student Tyler Kennedy who, with some help, reeled in a 948.6-pound Tiger Shark at Pensacola’s 2012 Outcast Mega Shark Tournament. Kennedy’s shark shattered the previous tournament record, but he was just shy of Alabama’s state record. Larry G. Eberly’s 988.5-pound Tiger Shark has stood as the state record-holder since 1990.
For all the gear and preparation tips you’ll need to reel in massive sharks, check with any bait shop along Alabama’s coast. Just make sure not to take these giant fish lightly. The Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark (another Alabama species) are two of the three most dangerous species on the planet (along with the White Shark). And don’t be surprised if you see a Blacktip Shark or a Spinner Shark leaping into the air—they’ve probably just snagged a meal.
If you’re able to haul in a shark, make sure you put it to good use. It may not look like it from the outside, but shark meat is considered by many to be a seafood delicacy. The meat on these deep-sea predators is rather tough, so they’re most often served and prepared as thick-cut filets. They’re typically grilled, and a quality shark steak will have a taste and texture similar to swordfish.
Whether you’re searching for a tasty seafood dinner or you’re simply in awe of these aquatic marauders, Shark Week is more than just educational entertainment: it’s a cause for a seafood celebration. Now in its 29th year, Shark Week begins Sunday, June 26.
For more information on sharks found in Alabama, visit our Field Guide.
Photo courtesy of Innisfree Hotel on Flickr