Catching top-level fin predators fascinates Victor Hluben.
The 22-year-old Florida Atlantic University biology student from Boca Raton recently started posting videos on his "Land Shark Fishing TV" YouTube channel. The obsession bit him at 13 when he saw a man catch a black fin shark on the Palm Beach pier. Three years later, he began shark fishing himself.
He hit it big on March 16, when a 14-feet long hammerhead bit bait. During the struggle, he let go of 400 yards of line, and used his entire body to pull on his brand new custom made fishing rod.
“How long have you been fighting your fish for?” His girlfriend Brook Crist, 19, said, as she filmed him in action.
"Forty minutes," he said.
About 30 minutes later, Crist captured the moment that got Hluben nationwide attention this week. He appeared on NBC News and ABC’s Good Morning America. And on Wednesday, Hluben told Local 10 News that there was something he feared more than the shark.
"There is plenty of ignorance," he said. "They are not monsters."
Hluben said he was concerned that the fear could hurt tourism in the area, so he and his friends agreed not to disclose the name of the beach. But they could not keep the moment secret, and nearly a week later, their excitement was palpable.
“I knew they had hooked a monster,” said Jose Martinez, 29, who grew up in Hialeah and works in Boca Raton. “I ran out to the beach as fast as I could to help them out.”
Once the shark lost agility in shallow water, it took the strength of Hluben, Martinez, Ben Begovic, and Garrett Reingardt to pull the 700 pound shark out to the sand. The group took pictures, took the hook out, and pulled the fish back in the water.
“During this time of year we go out two to three times a week,” Hluben said.
The catch could have happened on almost any beach in South Florida. Sharks migrate as far south as northern Miami-Dade County in the winter and start to head north toward North Carolina in March.
“Those hammerheads are harmless,” said Martinez. “There is nothing really to be scared about, but a lot of people don’t understand that.”
Biologists agree that only three out of the 11 species of hammerheads are dangerous to humans. Out of about 480 species of sharks, only the white, tiger and bull shark are the most likely to kill humans, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.
"There are people swimming among sharks all the time," Martinez said. "We are just not part of their food chain.”
Every year about 75 shark attacks are reported worldwide, yet humans commercially exploit about 100 shark species.
“The sharks have more to fear from humans,” Hluben said.