Fisherman Regrets Catching Legendary 20-Foot Great White Shark

A legendary 20-foot-long great white shark caught off Prince Edward Island in 1983 is still being discussed 30 years later, yet the fisherman who caught it considers the animal's death "not really our proudest moment."

The Prince Edward Island shark has entered the lore of great whites, constantly discussed since it was killed three decades ago. At 20 feet in length, the shark may be the largest great white ever caught, as CBC News reports. According to Toronto native David McKendrick, who landed the shark, the animal's size was imposing, to say the least.

"It was big beyond anything you could imagine. Two adults couldn't wrap their arms around it."

Yet when McKendrick set out fishing, catching a shark was hardly his intention. Anglers had no idea a shark of that size prowled the waters just 12 miles off the coast of Prince Edward Island, and researchers failed to understand the great white's significance. As the Star Canada reports, McKendrick has rarely spoken about the day that he caught the shark, despite numerous and repeated requests for interviews.

"We were using nets with a one-inch rope along the top to float it," he recalled. "I guess the shark was knocking fish out the net and got tangled in the rope. I wasn't trying to catch a shark; it was the furthest thing from my mind. We never thought a beast of that size roamed those waters."

McKendrick and the rest of the boat's crew spent three hours using a winch designed for lighter loads to hoist the massive shark aboard, and upon reaching shore, they were greeted by a crowd of several hundred people. Astonishingly, however, local shark experts failed to recognize the animal's importance, and after the jaws were removed and sold, the great white was buried nearby. Word of the shark spread, however, eventually reaching Tom Hurlbut from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who journeyed to the island to study it. Described as a clone of Matt Hooper from Jaws, Hurlbut joined the anglers in examining the white shark.

"We dug up the carcass and dissected it. He found two porpoises, both six-feet long, inside the fish," McKendrick said. "We were totally naive before that. We never realize those rows of incredible triangular teeth are unique to one species -- the great white."

Despite the significance of the catch, McKendrick carries a great deal of guilt over the shark's demise. Recent studies on the animal's remains have determined that despite the great white's staggering size, the shark was just a teenager when it died, meaning it could potentially have grown larger, as the Inquisitr previously reported. McKendrick notes that his generation's perception of white sharks was shaped by Jaws, and while he admits the shark's death may have been unavoidable based on the type of gear the anglers were using, its demise still weighs heavily upon him.

"When I reflect back, I think what a waste it was. There was no respect given to fish that weren't commercially viable."

After fishing for 17 years, McKendrick now works as a website manager. While he observed that no animals can be hurt in his current line of work, the great white shark he once encountered remains a legend in its own right.

[Photo via Discovery]