With the year of 2012 and our alleged judgment day encroaching quickly, we have decided to let the faithful followers of the Team Rebel angling operation take a very rare and candid look behind the scenes of what may have been one of the most extreme and trying seasons that I personally have ever encountered. This report is unlike any other report we have released to the public, and we hope that everybody who takes the time to stop by and support our site and operation, can get a first-hand look at the trials and hardships that we go through to be able to keep quality content flowing through the site, and to keep our readers and followers entertained. We consider this one of our most epic reports to date. This is “Ghosts of the Coasts”.
The air over the Florida coast-line had again began to thicken with the stifling humidity that our home state has become so famous for, and the dust had been piling up on our dormant gear that was suspended on some wobbly racks suspended from the ceiling in Shark Command Central. Our favorite time of the year was approaching quickly, and with many new plans drawn up in an attempt to increase our efficiency in the hunt for big game fish, we had to leave no stone unturned in our preparation for the impending Hammerhead migration.
I awoke one morning to a smell in the South Easterly wind that any good fisherman knows, it’s the smell of fish in the air, and though it is hard to describe, it is a sense you develop over years of observation and thousands of hours of chasing the giants. It’s a scent that lets you know, the time to achieve greatness has arrived. I made the usual calls to the crew to alert everybody that even though the conditions and times were not yet at their peak, we had to start fishing early to test out some of our new gear and tactics, just in case tweaking needed to be made before the short season peaked, there was no margin for error.
I assembled the team, and briefed everybody on the objectives for the coming months, as well as the changes I have planned to make and the greatness we wanted to achieve. It didn’t seem like a hard sell to the team at the time, but that was the furthest assumption I could have made from the truth at the time being. We loaded up the assault vehicle, popped in Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven” album, and headed surfside for a season we would not soon forget.
We began deploying baits on the first two nights of fishing the bad moon and tides, but were met with what I had initially expected, silence throughout the surf and what appeared to be a wasteland, void of all signs of life. It was hard to fall back into the groove and routine of the beach operation when we have all been in a fishing rut for the better part of four months now. There were strange winds and pressure systems that are atypical of spring time present in the eight hours we fished the first two nights, causing one unnamed team member to drop out of the operation “temporarily”; we were now down to three people and a tag along girl who was just trying to kill time. Two days in, we were already a man down, but we had to press on. -8hours
The next three days of fishing were met with similar results, shifting winds and volatile seas were already testing us very early into our so called “trial” period, which prompted the next soldier to fall (and no, it wasn’t the girl). Down to me and Tyler again and only five consecutive days of fishing into the season, we already had the odds stacked against us. However, the fire had ben lit inside both of us, and the more nights we went without a nibble, and the less sleep we had, the hungrier we became to find the giant we were hunting for. The routine was getting old only a week into the season, from work, to class, to the beach, five hours of sleep on average a night, and repeat. After just a week’s worth of nights like this, it already begins to turn you into a lifeless shark fishing zombie. This is the time where people show their true colors.....its time to beast up. -22hrs
The second team member who shall remain unnamed swore he would be returning soon, but after two more nights, and no answer from him on his phone, it became evident that he would not be coming back, but it was for reasons that we learned later on would add insult to injury. But for now, another two nights of fishing ridiculously rough surf and miserable conditions meant sleep was at a premium, along with a bite on our lines from something with teeth. It was time to take a new approach to the mission, and try something a bit different in a new region, for some different species. -36hrs
We loaded up the trucks with kayaks and gear and made the long voyage north to test our luck inside the fabled Indian River. We deployed the kayaks mid-day and paddled a couple of miles through the mangroves in the blistering sun in search of the flats normally littered with tasty, bite sized stingrays. We searched for hours and only came up with three, which is way short of our normal haul; it seemed as if even the flats of the healthy river were barren wastelands absent of life. But nonetheless, we were going to take a shot at one of the monster river Bull sharks and Goliath Grouper. Upon our arrival we discovered that here too the water temperature was well below the norm for this time of year, which was a good indicator of what we would be catching over the course of the next two nights. The only thing that kept us awake was the presence of numerous dangerous creatures lurking around us throughout the night, none of which were sharks unfortunately. After two more nights without a single inch of line coming off of our reels, it was time to go the hell home and regroup. – 49hrs
The long ride home that night was a silent one, Tyler and I had already talked about what we could change or do next over the course of the past 50 hours of fishing, and moral was crushed as the time frame for the giant Hammers was now knocking on our door. We set out two weeks early to test out some new gear and techniques to make sure they were sound before our window opened up, and now it was here, and we had not gotten a SINGLE bite in just about 50hrs of bait soak time, we were now in big trouble, and we knew it, but somehow tempers did not flare and we remained calm, yet soulless, with our eyes set on reaching the mountain top, but it felt as if we had not even begun to climb..
We gathered our thoughts and a little extra shut eye before heading back out the next afternoon beachside once again, and once again we were met with disappointment and defeat, as it turned into 55hrs without a single bite. -55hrs
A rare springtime front was approaching us rapidly, and solely for the fact that we thought that if we did not fish for a night that we would lose motivation period, we pulled the trigger and headed out to the beach in some of the coldest rain I have had to brave in a long time. The seas were around 6ft with a 25mph constant North wind, and the Doppler radar was covered with rain as far as we could see. This was the night that we officially lost our minds. But on this night, we would not get blanked, but catch and release a lone 60lb Black-tip shark. It was the first time one of our reels had gone off in just about 60 hours, and even though it was a minnow compared to what we were looking for I don’t think I have ever been that happy to see a small shark in my entire life. It was just enough to keep us motivated to pull the same gig again the next night. Now, we were for certain on the path to hell, as we were both losing weight and turning into anti-social pariahs that avoided daylight at almost a cost. – 61hrs
The next 4 nights rolled by, with winds changing to a completely opposite direction from the previous night, nothing besides the ocean being in front of us was a constant from one day to the next. But we were able to capture one smaller Black-tip shark and two stout female Nurse Sharks during this 4 day stint. Granted, none of these catches were glorious, but they were all baby steps in the right direction, and anything was better at this point than what we endured the first 60hrs of bait in the water. However, the seas stayed rough and the rain kept falling every night, making every waking minute of existence pure misery every single night, just questioning what the point of all this truly was, and why in the hell have we not just quit this self-induced torture regiment. -79hrs
We were finally graced with a flat calm day for a change the following day, and it made for a very nice change of pace. We arrived at the beach on this day a couple of hours before dark to take advantage of the water clarity and calmness and to see what was swimming around in the area we had been fishing. It seemed like a ghost town just like everywhere else, that was until I saw a large wake pushing South toward our location only a couple of hundred yards from the shoreline, so naturally Tyler hopped in the kayak and went out to inspect the situation. Tyler kayaked just a couple of yards behind the wake and to both of our surprise, it was a slender 9ft Hammerhead cruising on the surface aimlessly. This was the best thing we had seen in 3 weeks of fishing every single night, we now had hope that we were now in prime time, and our target fish was finally within our grasp.-84hrs
The next day came, we arrived at the beach to once again find massive surf and blinding rain, but that was not going to stop us now after all we had been through. Tonight was Tyler’s night to kayak, but apparently he didn’t feel like going out in rough surf, and failed to mention that until we were setup and ready for deployment. Needless to say I was f&%$%*& livid, but we were there and there was going to be baits in the water no matter what the conditions. It was very hard to get through the surf on this night and I was only able to get our two rods that were baited with small, yet thick pieces of stingray wing out about 125yds, just barely on the other side of the short sandbar. I got battered paddling through the surf, and when I got back to the beach I did not even want to speak or look at Tyler, so we both sat in silence next to each of our rods for about three hours. I was not to ecstatic about the placement of the baits, nor the fact that it was a falling moon and almost a dead low tide, which have all proven over the years that together this normally meant we would not be getting a bite. The rain kept falling sporadically over the next few hours, and the wave heights fell from borderline deadly to a glass like conditions during the time frame. The silence between us spoke volumes, and I thought that an implosion of our season was near on the horizon, but in an instant that all changed. My reel let out a very slow and cocky pull, this was not the hit of a small shark or some other species, this was the bite we had been looking for the entire time. I jumped up and immediately sprang into action by feeding the shark some line to make sure he had taken the entire bait before I threw the reel into gear and all hell would potentially erupt in our camp. I told Tyler the shark had it and to get ready as I threw the reel into gear and came tight with the fish on the other end, but to my surprise when I came tight, it felt like I was snagged. The Barrett Custom rod was now completely doubled over and there wasn’t any motion coming from the other end for almost 20 seconds, which is an eternity in a fisherman’s time. I kept yelling to Tyler “I have no idea what is going on right now”, but during my speculation, a hard thud came from the other end and the rod began to bend further in a hurry. I dug in and held my ground as the fish made its initial run and began to peel the line off my reel, against the almost locked drag; this was the one we have been looking for. Tyler was able to snap a couple of quick pictures before he had to clip onto my harness with the safety line to ensure me not drowning on this particular night.
The fish was steadily dumping the reel now, and we were already getting a little nervous as we have encountered this many times in the past, and most of the time the fisherman loses. I told Tyler we had no option but to hammer the drag system down even harder and dig in and make the final stand before the shark had too much momentum on its side for us to be able to slow it. I cranked the drag down further and Tyler pulled back on the rope attached to my harness with all that he had, and after a few dicey moments we had exactly what we wanted, a stalemate. The standoff did not last long, as the fish decided to turn back towards us, I yelled at Tyler “This shark just messed up big time, he is beat now”. I gained about 150yds back onto the reel when the shark decided it was going to try to test us by turning and attempting to make another run on us, but little did the shark know that I and Tyler were not going to have none of it. The line came tight and drag began coming off the reel again, but all of a sudden there was a “POP!” and we both fell straight to the sand. We were stunned, and we did not have a clue what had just happened, surely it couldn’t have been our leader, our hook, our knot? I reeled the slack line to the beach in a complete rage of fury, to find the complete rig intact, with the 20/0 circle hook still attached to the wire along with a 4inch piece of stingray. But I did not even want to ponder what happened until I had a little bit of time to reflect in what had just occurred.
Upon further inspection of the rig, I came to find out that the shark did not eat the entire piece of Stingray that was attached to the circle hook for bait, but the incredible part was that it held onto this thick piece of ray wing and would not let go for over 10 minutes before it was finally able to sink its teeth in one last time and sever the piece lodged within its mouth. The wing did not rip off the hook, but it did begin to actually separate from the immense pressure of the drag. It was a large, large shark without a doubt, and upon further inspection of the leader when I returned home, I found about 1ft of chalked up, brown colored mono, which is consistent of a sharks tail striking the leader while swimming repeatedly. I brought this to Tyler’s attention, and we instantly thought to put tension on the leader and measure it out to the center of the small frayed region. It measured out to 13’8”, though that is a rough estimate of the shark that was at the other end, from experience I felt like that it was a pretty good estimate with some hard evidence to back it up. We were in overdrive now, and that hookup turned up the gas dial on our range, we were certain we were just days away from landing another world-class giant. -89hrs
The next two days passed without any more incidents, we were back to the usual, no bites, rough surf, and now we were struggling to acquire bait to be able to fish with. Tyler and I were in good spirits as we still had the monster hookup from the other night swimming through our thoughts as we sat near the water’s edge absorbing the scenery of the ocean, which we seem frequently neglect and forget about when we are on a mission. But nevertheless, two more nights with no signs of life, it really felt as if we were chasing a ghost at this point, and right when we were about to stop looking for it, and believing in its existence, we saw a shadow out of the corner of our eye, and that was enough to keep us searching for what now seemed to be an apparition of a true giant. -96hrs
The fabled super moon was approaching in two days, and we were not going to miss the chance to fish during the largest full moon of the decade no matter what obstacle may present itself. The night before the moon we fished 9 long hours without a click from any of our reels, nor a ripple or distant sound coming from the stagnant water of the still somewhat frigid Atlantic. We thought the super moon would possibly be enough to offset our luck and create a cataclysmic feeding session under the oceans silent surface as the blood moon did for our many years before. I felt “off” the night of the super moon, ranging from having trouble standing, as feelings of nausea and lightness overtook my body, I felt like I was falling ill. “Not now” I thought to myself, “Not when we haven’t yet seen the giant we had been so diligently hunting for the past few weeks”. We fished another 8-9 hours the night of the super moon, without any sign of activity yet again. It was time go home and regroup, and concoct a new plan back at the headquarters, but little did I know that this plan would not go off without a hitch either. - 112hrs
I awoke the next morning to find myself incapable of getting out of bed, and my tonsils had completely shut, making it near impossible to even drink a couple of sips of water. Upon further inspection I found that my tonsils were also laden with numerous white spots, which I was sure wasn’t a good sign and would ultimately sideline me for the time being. Tyler went on his way to involve himself in other activities, while I laid in bed for the better part of three days, unable to sleep, eat, or drink during that period of time. I have had similar problems in the past, but none held a candle to what kind of pain and misery I was in during this flare-up. I finally convinced myself to see a doctor, which prescribed me Ibuprofen. I argued with the doctor insisting that I needed a steroid pack and amoxicillin (as this has cured this for me in the past) but he would hear none of it. After a heated exchange I went back home and sat in the same chair for another three days. During this time my condition deteriorated even further, to the point where I could hardly move. I decided I needed to go to the emergency room as fast as possible, mostly due to the fact that I was beginning to hallucinate and had lost almost 10lbs in less than a week. I made numerous calls to people including Tyler and other teammates, asking them if they could take me to the emergency room around 11pm that night, but every single person declined and said they were “going out” or didn’t want to get up so I was forced to get up and make an attempt to drive myself there with kayaks and rotten bait still sitting in my truck from a week earlier, still ready to drop a bait at the drop of a hat. I lay motionless and lifeless with a blank stare that I could actually feel on my face while as I laid in a hospital bed for two days receiving treatment for the mysterious illness. I was alone, but even when I was what felt like inches from death laying in the hospital room, all I could think about was the shark that I had hooked with Tyler a week earlier, and what I could have done or should do different when I got out of the hospital and was able to fish again.
I was released from the hospital after two days, and was given the medications that I told the first doctor I needed in the first place (which ultimately cured the illness). But to add insult to injury, I learned that the reason team member number two who bailed on the quest, did so because he had other interests to pursuit, such as my recently departed ex-girlfriend. Just about everything that could have gone wrong did, and all that I was left with was the vision of the tip of the rod when it began to slowly bend on that fateful night.
A month after the last time I had stepped foot near the ocean, I was finally healthy enough to go back to work and school. But the day before I began to fall back into the routine of complete responsibility, I was recruited for a simple pier fishing trip on the day which turned out to be the same day that Osama Bin Laden breathed his final breaths (courtesy of Seal Team 6). This was what I looked like when I was able to leave my home for the first time since I was struck with the mystery illness, 15lbs lighter than I was when the month began.
Tyler had returned back to the North, and the other crew members were involved in their own extra-curricular activities now, which left me alone on my shark conquest, and for the first time in my life I had to give up as there was no longer an option and the window for the giants had already passed. I laid down in bed shortly after I put the shark rods back onto their holding rack for the first time in almost three months, and began to space out in bed. The only noise was the rhythmic sound made by the whirling ceiling fan above my head, and I was struggling to keep my eyes open while I was completely lost in the oceans of thought. I was on the beach sitting in similar silence when the rod tip began to bend slowly, while the clicker let out a slow but cocky hit. I threw the reel into gear and began to bark commands to Tyler by my side while line poured off the reel. After what seemed like an eternity the leader was finally in sight, and I kept yelling “Where’s the fish at?! I don’t see it!” A wake started pushing the surface, getting stronger as the beast began to rise to the surface to let us catch our first glimpse at the fish we had worked so hard for. Right when the dorsal was just about to cross the threshold from the smooth, clear Atlantic Ocean and into the air, my eyes opened to daylight and my alarm clock ringing loudly at 7:15 am. I could feel my heart beating out of control and sweat all over my forehead, at the same time I peered over at the picture of our potential world-record Hammerhead we caught last year that was perched in its normal place next to the clock, I only then realized that it was all just a dream, a bad dream, just like the way our season started and finished…………Just a bad dream.