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Huge shark snagged off California could be record catch

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, stands next to a 1323.5 pound Mako shark at the company's headquarters in Gardena, Calif., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. A group of fishermen hauled in the 12-foot-long shortfin mako shark Monday off the coast of Huntington Beach. Jason Johnston, from Mesquite, Texas, said it took more than two hours and a quarter-mile of line to reel it in. According to Williams, who provided the chum to Johnston and his crew, this current catch broke the California State record of a 986 pound Mako shark caught by Tom Brooks, Jr., set in September 5, 1999. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Genaro Molina) (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, ) NO FORNS; NO SALES; MAGS OUT; ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER OUT; LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS OUT; VENTURA COUNTY STAR OUT; INLAND VALLEY DAILY BULLETIN OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT, TV OUT
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, stands next to a 1323.5 pound Mako shark at the company's headquarters in Gardena, Calif., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. A group of fishermen hauled in the 12-foot-long shortfin Mako shark Monday off the coast of Huntington Beach. Jason Johnston, from Mesquite, Texas, said it took more than two hours and a quarter-mile of line to reel it in. According to Williams, who provided the chum to Johnston and his crew, this current catch broke the California State record of a 986 pound Mako shark caught by Tom Brooks, Jr., set in September 5, 1999. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Genaro Molina) (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, ) NO FORNS; NO SALES; MAGS OUT; ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER OUT; LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS OUT; VENTURA COUNTY STAR OUT; INLAND VALLEY DAILY BULLETIN OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT, TV OUT
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This June 4, 2013 photo courtesy Ray Pacheco shows the 1,323-pound mako shark on the back of a boat trailer being taken for an accurate weight reading to Gardena, Calif. The huge mako shark caught off the coast of Southern California on Monday June 3,2013 could set a record, but a critic said it should have been released because sharks are threatened worldwide. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach after a 2 1/2-hour battle. (AP Photo/Courtesy Ray Pacheco)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This Wednesday, June 5, 2013 photo shows rows of teeth from a Mako shark caught by a fisherman off the coast of California at New Fishall Bait Company in Gardena, Calif. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the potentially record-setting 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach on Monday after a 2 1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported. If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions, it would exceed the 1,221-pound record mako catch made in July 2001 off the coast of Chatham, Mass. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Mako shark caught by a fisherman off the coast of California sits in a tank at New Fishall Bait Company in Gardena, Calif., on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the potentially record-setting 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach on Monday after a 2 1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported. If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions, it would exceed the 1,221-pound record mako catch made in July 2001 off the coast of Chatham, Mass. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, looks into the mouth of a 1,323.5-pound Mako shark at the company's headquarters in Gardena, Calif., on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the potentially record-setting 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach on Monday after a 2 1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. » A sport-fisherman reeled in a huge mako shark off the Southern California coast that tipped scales and threatened records. But conservationists criticized the catch, saying shark populations are vulnerable to overfishing worldwide.

The female shark caught Monday off Huntington Beach weighed in at just over 1,323 pounds. It was 11 feet long and measured 8 feet around its thick midsection, said Kent Williams, a California-certified fish weight master and owner of New Fishall Bait, where the shark was taken for frozen storage.

Jason Johnston, of Mesquite, Texas, caught the massive fish after a 2 1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported.

If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions — a process that takes about two months — it would exceed the 1,221-pound record mako catch made in July 2001 off the coast of Chatham, Mass., said Jack Vitek, world records coordinator for the Florida-based International Game Fish Association told the Los Angeles Times.

Under state law, anglers can take two such sharks per outing, although such catches are exceedingly rare, Williams said.

"Ninety-nine out of 100 people who are out fishing for sharks catch this and will not be able to land it," he told The Associated Press.

On Wednesday, angry callers from as far away as Australia were phoning Williams’ business to complain.

David McGuire, director of the California-based protection advocacy group Shark Stewards, said it should have been released.

"People should be viewing these sharks as wonderful animals" rather than "spilling their blood and guts," McGuire told the Times.

But any sport fisherman who might have a world record is not going to release it, Williams said. "If they have a potential world record, they’re going to take that fish — if they can."

Only 23 of the 6,850 world records on file with the game association involve fish topping 1,300 pounds, Vitek said. The largest catch was a 2,664-pound great white shark that was taken off Australia in 1959.

"Seeing a fish over 1,000 pounds — whether it’s a shark, a tuna or a billfish — it’s extremely rare," Vitek said.

Johnston came to California to film a game-hunting television program called "Jim Shockey’s The Professionals" for the Outdoor Channel.

Southern California is considered to be a nursery ground for mako sharks, but most are just no bigger than 6 feet long, said Nick Wegner, a fisheries research biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

"Encountering one this big is rare," he said.

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