Combat vet catches Great White off Tybee Island

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:18 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:43 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Last week, a local angler caught the fish of a lifetime off the coast of Tybee Island, on a fishing rod that is even more special.

“The rod made a very unique kind of jerk, It wasn’t what you would normally see in the shark world,” said Captain Jimmy Lee Armel.

A sound Captain Armel wasn’t expecting to hear so far that day, he had just been catching sea bass and other recreational fish you would typically see off the Georgia coast.

But once he had this fish hooked, it took him about half the fight to realize what he had on the end of his line.

This is "Bluegill's" rod used to catch the 500 pound shark.
This is "Bluegill's" rod used to catch the 500 pound shark.(WTOC)

“I still wasn’t sure what species it was, I could just see a shadow and I thought, man that is a big fish. Once we saw it was a Great White. I can’t even explain the emotion that overcame me,” said Armel.

“It was so much, the apex predator, looking into those black eyes wondering where that shark has been, what has that shark seen, what has that shark survived. They are very unique, they swim by themselves, they aren’t schooling fish. They don’t congregate together, they’re their own thing and they are alone,” said Armel.

That sense of loneliness is something Captain Armel had to deal with himself upon returning from six combined tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A perspective that made catching this predator an even more meaningful moment.

“Anybody going through any dark times and you feel alone just like that white shark, you just keep swimming, keep eating, keep attacking until things get better,” said Armel.

Armel uses skills he learned in the military to help fellow combat veterans treat their PTSD...
Armel uses skills he learned in the military to help fellow combat veterans treat their PTSD with fishing.(WTOC)

As if catching this Great White Shark and releasing it safely wasn’t enough, the rod Captain Armel caught it on couldn’t have been more special. It was a gift from one of his best friends.

Greg (right) gifted Jimmy JP's rod, which Captain Armel caught the Great White Shark on.
Greg (right) gifted Jimmy JP's rod, which Captain Armel caught the Great White Shark on.(Jimmy Lee Armel)

“His brother’s nickname was Bluegill. Greg’s brother died of cancer years and years ago, they were inseparable. So Greg gave me this rod they had made for sword fishing and it says “Bluegill on it”. I was so excited and told him it means a lot and that I would do everything I can to put a big fish on there. I didn’t think it was going to be a great white shark. It was almost like it was meant to be, it was a beautiful beautiful thing,” said Armel.

Although the twenty-minute battle was tough, Armel beleives that he had more than adrenaline helping him catch this fish, he had Bluegill on the boat with him.

This photo was taken at a charity event for the non profit Knot Lucky Fishing last fall.
This photo was taken at a charity event for the non profit Knot Lucky Fishing last fall.(American Fishing Charters)

“His last year or so on this earth he was going through chemo and all that and he did what that white shark did, he kept swimming. He kept going fishing, he kept living life until he couldn’t anymore. It sounds crazy, but I was meant to do this. This is what I was put on this earth to do,” said Armel.

If you want to see the more footage of Captain Armel’s catch, click here.

Armel can also be reached by email at jimmy@fishingtybee.com.

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