Shark Week doesn’t usually happen until summer, but it came early for one
lucky fly angler. Randy Richter, a realtor from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was spending a
few days fishing in the Florida Keys when he successfully caught and released
a tiger shark estimated at 71/2 feet long, weighing in the neighborhood of
275 to 300 pounds.
A seasoned fly rodder with some two decades of experience in freshwater and
the brine, Richter has a thirst for adventure that has carried him to exotic,
faraway places like the Amazon jungle, and closer fishing meccas like
Islamorada, Florida, where he hooked the tiger shark on April 6.
According to the angler, he wanted to specifically target tiger sharks and
teamed up with Capt. Keith Tucker, who knew exactly where to try. A striped
marauder of considerable heft showed up just 45 minutes after the guide set
his bay boat at their first stop. Chumming with a pair of bonito the Iowan
caught the day before enticed the shark within casting range, and it didn’t
take much coaxing to get it to take an orange-and-red streamer that Richter
After the hookup, which took place in about 10 feet of water, shark and angler
locked in a tough tug-of-war that lasted approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes
and culminated with a healthy release. “There weren’t many long runs, but the
tiger kept fighting and wouldn’t give up,” Richter said, adding that they were
more than a mile away from where he hooked the shark when they finally let it go.
A TFO Bluewater rod and a Mako 9700 reel were the weapons chosen for the
battle, which becomes more impressive when one considers the unlikely odds.
While tiger sharks inhabit many tropical and subtropical waters, including the
Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, they are far more abundant around the
central Pacific islands. In addition, tigers are nomadic loners by nature.
They don’t often congregate like various other coastal sharks and won’t
respond to a chum line en mass as do more fly-fishing friendly lemons,
blacktips, spinners, bulls and sandbar sharks.
Richter, whose love of saltwater fly fishing began many moons ago chasing
beach snook while vacationing in Sanibel, Florida, keeps a tally of the
different species he has caught on fly. It currently stands at an impressive
212. Fascinated by the apex predators since his youth, the well-traveled
angler has periodically targeted different sharks. He fondly recalls a brief
but exciting tussle with a 700-pound mako off San Diego. “I knew I was
overmatched as soon as I saw that monster, but I just had to take the shot,”
he said. And he claims that, after sealing the deal on a hammerhead last year,
the tiger released in April makes 10 shark species he has now notched on the
When asked what comes next, Richter replied that he has a trip to South
America planned for August. The destination this time is Bolivia, where he’ll
tangle with golden dorado. On the saltwater front, Richter says he wants to
try for a cobia, a popular migratory gamefish that has managed to elude him