Sean and Brooks Paxton or the Shark Brothers as the media have dubbed them, have made a huge contribution to promoting catch and release shark fishing. The founders of the International Land Based Shark Fishing association, which was created to give shore sharkers a way of verifying their records without having to kill the shark.
Sean and Brooks went on to create the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge, a huge competiton to promote the catch and release fishing for sharks.
Coming from an entertainment background, the brothers also set up their company http://www.shotlockerpromotions.com and have worked on many productions for National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Shark Week among many others where they continue to promote conservation among fishermen.
How did you guys first start fishing?
It all started from when we were very young. Our family always had a love of the outdoors and we used to spend our summers on Chesapeake bay with our Grandfather and that’s where we started fishing and even caught our first sharks. Then in 1975 the movie Jaws came out and it left such an impression that you could say it altered the course of our lives and has taken us on a path that we are still on today. That film captured our imagination as it did with so many other kids and we have spent our lives obsessed with sharks ever since.
You both have made a massive contribution in the push for catch and release shark fishing, especially in competitions. It must have been a long and slow process?
Although it didn’t come overnight, we were really embraced by the sport fishing community because we weren’t protesting anyone, it was more about showing alternatives that would benefit us all. We are hunters and fishermen ourselves, so as long as people were doing it legally we didn’t have a problem with that, but with shark numbers on the decline it was time to make a change. For our very first tournament format we created and produced in 2010 The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge, the first angler to sign up was Bucky Dennis who was the world record holder for great hammerhead shark. To claim an IGFA world record like his you had to bring in the shark for verification of weight so as a practical matter, you have to kill it. So if guys like Bucky could get involved and promote tagging and catch and release we knew we were off to a good start. He could see the attraction of promoting shark education in the schools, and that the kids could follow the sharks we were catching on the internet.
We have kept sharks ourselves and there are some good eating species but we have always believed in sustainable fishing. If populations are too low then there should be no fishing at all for them. What we are completely against though, is to take one just for a trophy or to take its jaws out. It’s just a waste of a magnificent fish so that’s where we really draw the line, with wasteful practices.
So we started looking for alternatives, we wanted to see a change while still respecting the guys who went before us. People said when diet coke came out it would never catch on, well over time it did and that’s what happened with catch and release sharking!
What are your favourite shark species?
We admire them all as each species is so different. Big ones like the tigers obviously, but some of the smaller species like sandbars are really interesting too. It’s just amazing to be up close and personal with creatures that have been around for millions of years virtually unchanged.
You have the more acrobatic ones like the makos or the real bruisers which are bull sharks, which will really pull the hell out of you and thresher is another we love to see. For a long time in the US for a fisherman a shark was a shark but nowadays we have a much better understanding of their different habitats and personalities.
How did you guys get into film making?
It’s been a long strange trip as Jerry Garcia once said! We come from a long line of entertainers and I earned my first pay check when I was fourteen playing drums in Las Vegas. Brooks joined a few years later, playing bass and singing in our parents show band.
Before touring with them we were living and growing up in western PA. As soon as we could hunt and fish you would find us out in the woods a lot of the time. So Later on wherever we travelled around the world we continued exploring and checking out the local wildlife in some pretty exotic places. We were very fortunate to be exposed to so much by our parents at an early age. Over the last fifteen years through the work we do with our company http://www.shotlockerproductions.com we’ve combined our lifelong passion for adventure, exploration and wildlife with our entertainment background to share some exciting stories and promote important causes including the importance of catch and release shark fishing and conservation.
You also got to know the late Frank Mundus very well, can you tell us of your experiences with Frank?
We became friends and fished and lived with Frank every summer up in Montauk for a few years while filming a documentary about his life in the process. We were also part of a small team, handpicked by Frank to help legally repossess his famous boat the Cricket II, which is what they based the Orca on in the film Jaws. Frank was also the real life inspiration for the book and movie’s Capt. Quint character.
Frank was amazing, he was not only very good at what he did, but he was a showman too. He always had great jokes when the fishing was a bit slow, he had the best stories and a head full of quotes. As far as Jaws went, he said it was the best comedy he had ever seen! We had been aware of him being the inspiration of Quint in Jaws since our childhood and we remember reading many articles about him. It was amazing stuff and we will have a documentary out at some point.
What a lot of people aren’t aware of, are his many contributions to our early understanding of sharks and modern conservation efforts. He worked closely with scientists including Dr. Jack Casey way back in the day. They both collaborated on the first tagging program for sharks and a lot of other studies. Later in life, Frank was also one of the first outspoken advocates for the use of circle hooks and catch and release fishing – many years before it was fashionable. He was definitely one of a kind, and there will never be another like him, but he definitely left his mark.
What has been your favourite shark fishing moment over the years?
I think that it was a trip with Frank, it was his last ever overnight trip and it was the overnight trips that had traditionally brought the biggest sharks.
It was his last fishing trip over sixty years and we caught several makos and blues. One of them was to be the last shark Frank would tag before he died in 2008. It was to be the final time he ever drove the boat past the famous lighthouse in Montauk and it was very special to be part of. So that was our favourite trip.
With all the conservation work, do you still get to wet a line for other species?
Yeah of course. We are lucky we both live beside each other on a tributary of the Myakka river, and right in the back yard we catch snook, redfish, snapper and tarpon. Sometimes it’s hard to get any work done when you look out there and can see the fish coming through! Between October and February the snook are running and one year we had almost three hundred snook from the dock so the fishing can be exceptional.
What does the future hold for the Shark Brothers and have you any ambitions left in sharking?
We have a few things in the works that we can’t really go into at this time, but a couple we can talk about is the great hammerheads and salmon sharks. We’ve worked closely with some scientists that are trying to crack the code of where the massive hammerheads from Boco Grande Pass, Florida go when they migrate away from the area every year about the same time as the massive tarpon migrations also move on for the season. Using some innovative and non-invasive satellite tagging techniques we might just uncover missing pieces of their elusive life cycle puzzle such as where they go to breed and give birth.
They appear out of nowhere every year with a lot of returning individuals. Some of them push 20ft long and nearly a ton in weight. We think that is one of the great shark mysteries that we would like to work on. If we could play some part in pulling that off it would contribute greatly to the knowledge we have about hammerheads and sharks in general.
On the other hand the salmon sharks of Alaska are also very elusive. They are known to consume 20-40% of the salmon population in the area in the months that they are around so there is very little known about them too, as far as where they migrate to and other important aspects of their life cycle like breeding and pupping grounds. They are somewhat of an enigma, kind of like if a porbeagle, great white and a mako all got mixed in together. Those are the sort of things we still have on the agenda.
Well guys thanks for talking to us and hope you have a great year.
It was our pleasure no problem guys….