Catherine Fordyce had not gone shark fishing in more than five years, and she had no experience in the dangerous art of dehooking the thrashing and rolling sharks.
But she had no fear. Zero.
Catherine and her husband Rob Fordyce comprised Team Yeti during the seventh annual Madfin Shark Series held in the Florida Keys in March. During the tournament, teams could double their points by successfully removing the hook from the mouth of each shark, which weighed 100-800 pounds.
And during the tournament, which for the first time included couples, the teammates were required to alternate on catches, including reeling in the sharks and attempting to remove the hooks.
So it was good thing that Catherine, a firefighter/paramedic for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, doesn’t frighten so easily.
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“She was fearless,” said Rob Fordyce, who operates a fishing guide service in south Florida. “But she’s pretty much an adrenaline junkie.”
The Madfin Shark Series airs on Outdoor Channel throughout April and May at noon on Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. on Friday and 3:30 p.m. on Sundays.
The tournament is the only nationally televised catch and release shark competition in the world. This year, it returned to Key West, Fla., and the clear, shark-rich waters of the Florida Keys. The broadcast is hosted by famed outdoor host Tommy Sanders and British actor Butler Yates serves as narrator.
The four teams participating – two involving married couples and two more who are dating – earned varying numbers of points depending on the species of shark. Then that total could be doubled with the removal of the hook.
“I had zero experience doing that,” Catherine said. “I had never even tried it.
“The sharks, when you’re pulling them in, they like to roll and they could roll up into your hand. They were very unpredictable. Then the (dehooker) is only about 2 feet long, so you had to get you hand right down there next to its mouth.”
One of the other Madfin competitors, Bryan Bear Holeman – the captain of Team Bear – suffered a bite while attempting to dehook a shark.
Rob Fordyce said he worried while watching his wife trying to dehook his catches.
“When she was leadering a fish in, she would start rolling the line around her hand,” he said. “That can be pretty dangerous because if that shark starts to roll at that point, it can roll your hand right into its mouth.
“And when you’re dealing with an 8- or 10-foot bull shark or lemon shark, its head is more than 12 inches wide. I was concerned for her.”
Catherine and Rob, both 43, dated in high school, have been married for 18 years and have two children – Kaylee, 17, and Kyle, 15. Rob has been working as a guide for more than 26 years.
“I don’t take her fishing nearly as much as she would like,” Rob said. “I’m on the water 280-290 days a year, but that’s work.”
“He started guiding in high school,” Catherine said. “That’s his office.”
Rob has also been a part of several fishing shows on television throughout his career. A new show that was developed and slated to be produced by his good friend, the late Jose Wejebe, begins filming in May. It is scheduled to begin airing on Outdoor Channel in 2014.
As for the Madfin Shark Series, Rob said all of the teams were affected by a cold front that moved into the area on the opening day of the tournament.
“That changed the shallow game, and this is traditionally a shallow water tournament,” he said. “So I went offshore to try to get some hammerheads. They were there, but we didn’t do as well as we would have hoped.”
As for his teammate, Rob said he couldn’t have asked for more from Catherine.
“I know she caught more sharks than any other woman in the tournament, and most all of them came on the last day,” he said. “There were a couple of mistakes early on by both of us, but overall I would not have picked another teammate. She did great.”