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Tagging billfish leads to great white shark adventure

Avid billfish angler and TV outdoor fishing adventurer Chris Fischer never thought he'd actually be living a scene much like that from "Jaws" as he kneeled face-to-face handling a huge, live 4,600-pound great white shark.

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As a sportsman Fischer has caught and safely released lots of giant black marlin each weighing about 800 pounds, but this great white and the other giant toothy predators that followed were the biggest he's ever caught, examined and then released 15 minutes later unharmed.

It began when Fischer, a board member for The Billfish Foundation (TBF) was asked by Dr. Michael Domeier to help him tag big black marlin off Panama to follow their migratory habits by satellite. An avid billfisherman and billfish scientist, Domeier happens to be a great white shark scientist as well.

"When he saw Ocean our 126-foot mother ship he asked if I would be able to catch and safely lift a great white shark on it for scientific research he wanted to do," said Fischer.  "We have a hydraulic lift to pick up a 75,000-pound game boat. I said 'Sure. We can build a fence around the lift and swing a great white over it.'

"I felt we were the only people in the world who can safely capture these giant beasts of the ocean, pick them out of the water and let them go in good shape because of the lift and my crew of very talented world game anglers and captains," as Fischer described Jody Whitworth and Brett McBride two captains among his team members.

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"Like in the movie Jaws, the first time we saw a shark come in and eat the bait and then take off and drag the buoys under and across the water it was a life-changing moment as an angler.  The angling experience of capturing and releasing giant great white sharks is nothing similar to an angling experience of capturing a large pelagic fish.  There's a sense of history, a sense of awe, humility and humbleness. When a shark comes into the pattern under the back of the boat you look over at your bro and you're all taking a step back. That thing is going to eat and we don't want anyone to die today," Fischer said with a smile describing that moment.

They even named the first great white they caught-and-released Bruce for the mechanical sharks used in the 1975 movie thriller classic.

Click here for more on the show, which will be broadcast on the National Geographic channel.