If you've ever been to the Panhandle, it was probably during spring break. That's the one week per year in which Pensacola and Panama City become tourist hot spots. After the college hordes leave, those cities are again discarded and forgotten by out-of-towners like so many Natty Ice cans on soft, sugar-sand beaches. But weeks after that holiday ended, Joey Polk managed to bring yet another round of glory and international attention to the Gulf Coast.
The Milton resident nabbed an 805-pound mako earlier this month, threw it in the back of a pickup, and fed an entire village -- a feat that made headlines from the Huffington Post to the U.K.'s Daily Mail. If only he had thrown it back. After all, world records tend to last a little longer than barbecues.
Although Joey Polk told the New York Daily News that his catch was recognized as a record by the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association, the organization's website states otherwise. Or at least, it's a little more complicated than that.
"As of January 1st of 2012, the ILSFA will no longer promote or accept record applications for sharks not released," it reads, right on the homepage.
The Polks seem to be a prolific fishing family. In 2009, Polk's cousin Earnie became the mako record-holder, having caught a 725-pounder. That shark was also butchered. "No meat went to waste," Earnie Polk told the ILSFA in a postcapture testimonial. "Rednecks all over the county is grilling right now."
But the rules have changed, apparently. Although Joey's mako was bigger than his cousin's, it seems the record won't count.
What Polk did is not illegal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration encourages fishermen to release mako to help keep the ecosystem balanced and to keep the state from putting more regulations on commercial and recreational fishing. Their motto is "If you catch 'em alive, let 'em live."
"We tried to revive the fish and send him back out, but he was too worn out to swim," Polk explained to the Daily News, noting the fight between man and beast lasted more than an hour. "That's why we decided to keep him. We don't do it for the money, for the publicity, just to catch the fish."
Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti