caught off Kauai
Three Hanalei fishermen caught what they described as a 13-foot, 1,500-pound tiger shark Wednesday night in Hanalei Bay, roughly five miles east of where 13-year-old surf star Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark last month.
Ralph Young, a Napali Coast boat tour operator, said last night that he had been trying to catch a shark for five days after it had been spotted numerous times near popular surf areas in the region.
Young said he is a friend of Bethany's father, but he was not hunting the shark for revenge or notoriety.
"This is a magnificent creature ... and I don't think it's necessary to kill all of the sharks in the islands by any means," said Young in a telephone interview. "But the way this one was patrolling and the repetition of it ... the potential for harm by this one was real strong.
"I would have felt bad if I didn't catch him."
Bethany lost her left arm just above the shoulder on Oct. 31 from what was believed to be a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing at Makua Beach, also known as Tunnels, on Kauai's North Shore.
A 17-inch bite was measured from Bethany's surfboard after the attack.
Young said he measured the mouth of the shark he and two fellow fishermen caught as 17 inches wide.
However, Young stressed that when they cut open the shark, they found nothing inside to indicate that it might have been the one that bit Bethany.
"She had a watch, I believe. And a chunk of the surfboard could have been there, but we found nothing," he said.
"I would say the bite is the only similarity. The fin described by the lifeguards is also similar to the fin on this shark. There's a connection there but that's a rough description."
Young said he first laid out what he called a "shark rig" five nights ago, consisting of heavy cable, a 20-inch hook and a 6-foot gray shark as bait. That night, he said, the shark took the bait but got away, bending the hook straight while doing so.
Though there were some close calls after that, he said it was not until Wednesday night that the shark finally "made a mistake."
"We found him about 50 feet from the surf break," he said.
"Even Bethany's dad (Tom Hamilton) doesn't want everyone to go out and start killing sharks," Young said. "But everyone should be aware that they're notorious for being in Hanalei in the months of October and November -- especially surfers and parents of surfers."
Hanalei firefighters said a tourist showed them pictures of the shark that the fishermen had caught.
Young said that after gutting the shark and removing its jaw, they disposed of the carcass at sea.
Bethany underwent two surgeries while being treated at Wilcox Memorial Hospital. According to a family Web site (www.bethanyhamilton.com), she left the hospital last week and is recovering and spending time with her family.