Thrill Seekers Catch Record-Breaking Shark

Image credit: Mako Matt's Marine

Fishermen caught an unprecedented 1,323.5-pound shark off the coast off Southern California Monday afternoon.

"Any time you're dealing with an apex predator at a food source, its frightening," said Corey Knowlton, an associate hunting consultant with The Huntington Consortium who was a part of the team that caught the shark. "You are three to four feet away from something with the absolute ability to kill you. When it comes towards you, it comes with the purpose of killing and eating something."

Jason Johnston of Mesquite, Texas, boat captain Matt Potter of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Knowlton, who is the co-host of the hunting show "The Professionals," caught the short fin mako shark 15 miles away from shore in feeding waters.

The shark measured 11 feet in length and eight feet in circumference.

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"It took two hours to reel the shark in," Knowlton told ABC News. "Really, it was Jason who caught it and Matt who is the real genius behind it. He's able to look at the water temperature and underwater structures and see where the sharks are based on how they are feeding."

The team found the shark by following a trail of birds.

"There's a big, long stream of birds that develop when you're laying bait for sharks that you follow," Knowlton said. "When the birds suddenly lifted up, that's when we started looking. Matt was the first to see it. He got up and started freaking out. 'Big mako!' 'Big mako!' "

Indeed it was a big mako.

"Up until now, the largest shark caught by a sport fisherman weighed approximately 1,121 pounds," said Jack Vitek, the records coordinator for the International Game and Fish Association.

The sheer size of the shark has attracted the attention of researchers in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We will be working together to find out more about mako sharks, like what they eat, and to create a tagging program so we can monitor other mako shark populations," said Knowlton.

Marie Levine, the executive director of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, N.J., questioned what benefits catching sharks has on research.

"Makos are majestic creatures, but they are rare - really, really rare," she said. "It's a shame to see such a large animal taken away. There's no research that we are doing that needs a dead shark. Just by tagging them we can study their behaviors and moments."

The footage of the shark captured by Knowlton, Johnston and Potter will be released in an episode of the TV show, "The Professionals," premiering July 1.