The tale of Alfred Dean: shark hunter

Forget the biggest, baddest fish you've ever caught - Alfred Dean's was bigger. To this day, the great Australian holds the world record for the largest fish ever caught with the humble rod and reel: a mighty great white shark that weighed over a tonne.

Here at Hunts Marine, we love hearing about incredible feats of fishing almost as much as we love having the best fishing boats for sale. There's no doubt that Alfred Dean's fit the description of an incredible feat.

Here is his story.

The early years

Alf was born in Irymple, Victoria, on July 3, 1904. He had seven siblings - six brothers and one sister, all of whom lived with their mother and father in the Ovens Valley. His old man was a citrus and grape farmer, an industry Alf would eventually follow his father into. 

Alf was the owner of a citrus and grape farm, just like his father.Alf was the owner of a citrus and grape farm, just like his father.

He was not a man of great ostentation or pomp; a humble soul, he settled down by buying a block of land and building his house upon it, where he would live with his wife and two children. It's also where he would begin his citrus and grape farm, naming the deeply cherished property "Sunnycliffs".

The first beast

Given the rigours of the citrus and grape season, the only times Alf could get away to fish were December, January and after the grape harvest in April. He took many a fishing trip, but wanted to find some bigger game. For this, he decided to take to deep sea fishing.

An early experience enhanced his thirst for bigger catches. It was out on the Great Southern Ocean off South Australia where he hooked his first big shark. Unfortunately, it broke his rod and he had to cut the line. After a quick repair with a broomstick, Alf was at it again, and soon another was caught on his line. But this time was different - he hauled the shark into shore at Port Lincoln, where it was found to weigh almost 400 kilograms. A great beast, no doubt, but for the ever-adventurous Alf, it was not enough.

Once Alf got the taste for catching sharks, he never looked back.Once Alf got the taste for catching sharks, he never looked back.

Although he wanted to catch something bigger, Alf knew his boat accessories and gear wasn't up to snuff. The researching and building began, and at the end of the process, Alf had what he felt was the best big-game fishing rig in the world - with the results he got, it's hard to argue!

He had the gear; he had the physical strength; all he needed now was a fitting target. Thankfully, a friend had tipped him off about a huge shark, Barnacle Bill, that had been spotted around Streaky Bay. So in 1952, he set off to hunt his prey.

A world first

Streaky Bay proved to be fertile shark-hunting ground. Alf and his crew set off to make their catch. Throughout the night, the shark taunted the men, bullying the boat into rocking and rolling by brushing against its sides. But Alf was patient. When the day broke at 6.30 a.m., Alf got his line in the water. There were sharks all around, and to Alf's pleasure, the biggest one took the bait.

It was a hard fight. Alf played the shark for 45 minutes, battling to keep it on the line as it made attempts to bash the boat to bits. It even tried to bite the propeller, which only mangled the shark's mouth. But eventually, Alf prevailed, and the hauled the monster back to shore.

The headline in the next day's paper gave a nice summary; "Thrilling Battle off Streaky Bay with 2,333 lb shark". It was the first game fish that weighed more than a tonne to be caught anywhere in the world and provided the town with enormous pride. The newspaper article reports that almost everyone in Streaky Bay came to the jetty to see Alf's catch being weighed on the weighbridge. There's no doubt Alf was happy with his catch but he knew something greater was out there. 

The big one

Time passed. Alf continued to fish, breaking his own record with a slightly heavier (2,372 lbs) catch. Yet he continued to hunt, determined to get the big one that ever so shrewdly evaded his capture.

Then one day, it happened. It was April 1955. Alf was out on the waters off Ceduna, a small South Australian town. After dancing unsuccessfully with some smaller sharks, the prize Alf had been after all this time graced him with its presence. The crew knew they were in for a battle. Alf made especially sure his strike was secure and begun to play for an hour, the shark throwing everything it could at the crew. Yet it was no use - before the clock had spun through 70 minutes, the shark was caught.

They arrived back at Denial Bay not knowing they were about to weigh the fish that would remain the heaviest ever caught with a rod and reel to the present day. It was a gargantuan 2664 pounds, or roughly 1208 kilograms. Nothing caught since has come within 340 kgs of Alf's record. 

Alf, the ambitious fisherman he was, swore there was a bigger one out there. Unfortunately, he was unable to catch it before he passed in 1991. Nonetheless, he will go down in history as a man willing to push the boundaries of what's possible with a rod and reel.

If you'd like a crack at becoming a legend fisherman like Alf, get in touch with the team at Hunts Marine. We have a huge range of fishing boats for sale to suit any and every budget.

November 06, 2017 by Castleford Media