18-year-old vacationer catches 8-foot nurse shark on Vanderbilt Beach
Ryan Swanson almost gave up.
“This is taking forever,” he remembered thinking.
Sitting on the sands of Vanderbilt Beach, the 18-year-old Georgia native was about to go inside the condo where he was staying with his family for vacation. But then, around 10:30 p.m. on July 1, the “reel” challenge began.
“It started screaming,” he said. “That’s when the three-hour fight started.”
On the hook: an 8-foot-long nurse shark. Swanson’s dream come true — if he could land it.
Swanson’s always been interested in fishing, but the pandemic gave him much more time to dedicate to the hobby.
He used a drone to drop his bait away from shore. Then he waited. And waited. And waited. And when he got the bite, the three hours he spent — a long game of pulling closer, letting the shark run out, bringing it back again — slipped by like they were nothing.
It’s more than turning a crank. The closer the shark gets, the harder it pulls, and Swanson found himself in a battle of patience.
“He got in to where we could see him five times,” he said. “Just seeing him so close really made me so focused.”
It might have made Ryan Swanson focus, but it startled his mom, Janet Swanson.
“I know it had to be big because he had been reeling for three hours,” she said. “Just right here on the beach he caught something bigger than when he went deep sea fishing.”
While her son worked to bridge the gap between shark and shore, she and other family members looked on, working to help where they could.
At last, triumph. Ryan Swanson reeled the shark all the way in, snapped a pic, and let it go.
“I was super accomplished. It was something I’d never done before, and I’d always dreamed of doing (it),” he said.
His mom was proud, too.
“If you have that kind of patience and endurance and you’re going to sit there and wait until it’s finished, that tells me something about your integrity and character … you’ll persevere, you’ll push through,” she said. “I was very proud of him.”
And she’s proud of her other son, Ryan’s older brother, Rhett, who she said caught a 6-foot shark himself — the very next day.
Andrew Atkins writes about food and features for the Naples Daily News. Contact him via email at email@example.com. To support work like Andrew's, please consider subscribing: https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/