Photo Source: Ed Piotrowski WPDE
An unanticipated encounter off Pawleys Island on a serene Saturday has brought Jacob Nelson and his family unexpected attention. They were the principal actors in a thrilling saga involving a gigantic tiger shark that has now captured the imagination of the broader public. Yet, for the Nelsons, engaging with the wild ocean's inhabitants is simply part and parcel of their family adventures.
Far from being professional fishermen, the Nelsons are nature enthusiasts who hold deep reverence for the ocean and its myriad of life forms. Their recent encounter was with a formidable Tiger Shark, which Jacob, with the aid of his wife, two sons, and some local bystanders, managed to reel in using a Makaira 80w SEa rod, crafted by Mike Goings. Their bait of choice? A barracuda head.
Learn more about Tiger Shark Fishing in Myrtle Beach
To ensure the wellbeing of the sharks they catch, the Nelsons use non-offset hooks with the barbs crimped or removed, which helps to reduce the sharks' stress and the time they spend in shallow water. As Jacob explains, "We respect these magnificent creatures; we do not fear them."
This particular tiger shark, once near the shore, was promptly unhooked and tagged. The family carries a variety of tools to assist in this process, including channel locks, a standard dehooker, and as a last resort, bolt cutters to halve the hook instead of severing the line.
Jacob Nelson's efforts are a part of a greater collaborative initiative, the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program (CSTP). The CSTP represents a partnership between recreational anglers, commercial fishing, and NOAA Fisheries to gain a deeper understanding of the life history of Atlantic Sharks. As a volunteer-based endeavor, participants like the Nelsons receive no tangible rewards. However, Jacob and his family find immense satisfaction in knowing that they are contributing to the scientific community's knowledge.
Once tagged with the NOAA label, the tiger shark was gently guided back into deeper waters. Jacob waited for the next wave to aid in propelling the shark back to sea. He then shepherded it to about waist depth before it swam away, marking a successful tag and release.
Based on NOAA's charts, the shark was roughly 10 feet in length and weighed around 385 pounds, according to Jacob's estimates. Reflecting on the event, Jacob expressed his hope that the experience provided a lasting memory not only for his family but also for those who witnessed the event in person.
The story of the Nelson family's encounter serves as a compelling reminder of our intimate connection to nature and the excitement, respect, and responsibility it demands from us.