Sanibel fisherman’s battle with sawfish catches VP’s attention – NBC2 News
It’s a fishing story that’s got it all, but unlike your uncle’s tall tales, there’s plenty of proof.
A lot can be said about someone when catching a shark is second nature to them.
It was supposed to be a simple fishing trip, raising money for the Zonta Woman’s Group of Sanibel.
Elliot Sudal hooked a fish he thought couldn’t be any bigger than a bull shark. After fighting for two hours to bring the fish ashore, Sudal realized this was something much more exciting.
“I said, ‘Guys, this isn’t a beginner fish,'” he recalled.
From dawn until dusk, Sudal was relentless. At one point he enlisted the help of a complete stranger.
The two attached a line to the back of a kayak that Sudal was sitting in, all in an effort to bring the fish closer.
“It was the craziest thing. Super unsafe,” Sudal said.
As if the story wasn’t weird enough, Sudal noticed he’d drawn a crowd. People there around 6 a.m. watching him struggle for the same fish hours later were amazed by his perseverance.
None more impressed than Vice President Mike Pence, who caught wind of the 11-hour showdown and come by to show his support.
“He came over, and he was super nice. He was excited about the whole scenario,” Sudal said.
Eleven hours and some change go by before Sudal finally sees what all the fight was over when he reeled in a 14-foot sawfish weighing hundreds of pounds.
Calling it the most physically tasking thing he had ever done, Sudal gives credit to divine intervention.
His fishing reel was only meant for fish 65 pounds or smaller, so for it to last 11 hours for a 400-pound fish, was nothing short of miraculous.
“The way I felt at the end of this, I couldn’t even talk,” Sudal said.
His hands were blistered, but most importantly, he tagged the endangered fish and released it.
A subtle end, but Sudal wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is their water; they are in tune with it, they know what’s up. We should be researching what they’re doing and learning more from them,” Sudal said.
He has been working as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for years in their Apex predator tagging program.
It’s a federally funded program with the longest ongoing shark study in the country.
Sudal said the cherry on top was top prize for what turned out to be the fishing trip of a lifetime.
He helped raise $11,000 for the group from this trip alone, to help fight violence against women.