Shark Tale: St. John Sheriff’s deputy hauls in biggest catch of his life

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

LAPLACE — Jake Boudreaux faces intimidating suspects all the time.

As a sergeant in the special operations division of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, Boudreaux has seen the biggest, baddest and sometimes the scariest in the line of duty.

But none of those comes close to the subject he hauled in on Feb. 24.

Boudreaux and a bunch of his fishing buddies were out for the day south of Venice on his 42-foot Yellowfin vessel, The Huntress.

They were in search of some yellowfin tuna.

What they got was one whale of a shark tale.

Not long after Boudreaux got to his spot and began chumming the bait, an 11-foot Mako shark surfaced right next to the boat.

“He just stayed there,” said Boudreaux, an experienced sport fisherman who has caught everything from Amberjack to Wahoo — and has the trophies on his walls to prove it.

Jake Boudreaux, left, and his deck hand, Paul Miller, pose with the Mako shark at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice. Boudreaux said regular fishermen there told him it was the biggest shark they had ever seen. (Photos courtesy of Jake Boudreaux)

Boudreaux said it’s not uncommon to see sharks in the warm gulf waters.

“I think they kind of follow the fish and I think they tend to hunt in the warmer, murky water,” he said.

In fact, just one week prior, he had seen another rather sizeable Mako shark that tested his bait for a bit.

He didn’t make any attempt to catch that one.

“It was kind of a ‘holy crap, that’s a shark’ moment,” he explained.

“I didn’t really have time to think about catching it.”

This time, though, Boudreaux was ready, with better line and more equipment, including a big roped hook (called a flying gaff) — just in case.

It didn’t take long.

“He just came right up to the boat, popped up out of the water,” Boudreaux said.

“He started eating everything, just biting at it.”

Now there are some fishermen who live for the catch.

There are others who live for the fight and will spend hours battling the beast.

And everybody has seen “Jaws.”

Boudreaux and his buddies baited a hook and sent it out.

“As the shark was eating the hook bait next to the boat, he basically lobbed down on the drag on the reel and he couldn’t take a whole lot of line,” Boudreaux said.

“He was just next to the boat. He didn’t really take a hard run. He just stayed there. That’s when we put the gaff in him and just ended the fight.”

Boudreaux wasn’t playing.

He grabbed his shotgun and fired three times into the beast.

“It was a quick deal,” he added. “It wasn’t a big, long, drawn out thing.”

While the killing may have been quick, the hauling wasn’t. It took nine men, including a few from nearby boats who came to help, a good 90 minutes to get the 804-pound creature onto the boat.

A short while later, Boudreaux pulled into the Venice marina and quickly became a sensation — especially when they had to get a forklift to remove the shark from the boat and hoisted it up for everyone to see.

“It was the biggest shark anybody had ever seen there,” he said.

The Louisiana record for a Mako shark is 1,149.5 pounds. Boudreaux’s shark weighed in at 804 pounds.

It would have made the list as the second largest caught in Louisiana if he had not used a firearm.

“I don’t get a record because I shot him,” Boudreaux said, but he has no regrets.

“Each fish is different. I’ve caught some 50-pound tuna fish that fight for hours and you’ve got them on the line and you think they’re a 150-pound fish. Then you’ve got the kind of fish that come up in two minutes and don’t really do anything.

“I would have been all about the fight, but he just sat there next to the boat and ate the bait. It was the biggest one I’d ever seen. I don’t know why he was just sitting there. I guess I just didn’t know what he was going to do next.”

It’s still quite an achievement for Boudreaux, who shared the meat from the shark with his friends and others at the marina.

“I essentially free gaffed an 800-pound Mako,” he said. “That’s kind of like killing a lion with a spear.”

Boudreaux said he sent the shark’s jaws to a specialist in Florida who will mount them for him.

The rest of the shark’s carcass, including the spine, fins and liver, was sent to the University of Florida and others to be studied by marine biologists.

“They’ll be able to age him,” Boudreaux said.

“I think of these fish as something you respect. I’d like to get one that would break the state record. That’s a goal of mine.

“Would I go out and take another big one? If conditions were right, if conditions were perfect — yes — but I wouldn’t go out just to take one.

“Do I wish it could have been a record? Yeah. But I still hung up an 800-pound Mako. You can’t take that away from me.”