Physics teacher Joseph Prince passionate about shark fishing

Joseph and Jackson pose with their checks from the 2014 Shark-A-Thon tournament. Joseph, left, placed second, and his son, right, placed third in the kids division.
Joseph and Jackson pose with their checks from the 2014 Shark-A-Thon tournament. Joseph, left, placed second in the adult division and his son, right, placed third in the kids division. (Submitted photo)

After hours of sitting in the hot sun, the end of the rod begins to rumble and the reel begins to screech. Physics teacher Joseph Prince snatches the reel from the holder as the reel begins to smoke in his hand and the adrenaline flows through his body. He grips the rod tighter and prepares to battle the 500 pound size fish on the other end.  The fight is on. The shark twists and jerks in the water, not willing to give up easily.

Mustering all of the strength in his 6’1″, 200 pound body, Prince locks in for the fight. Hours later his exhausted body pulls the shark to the shoreline. He stares at the massive animal before him. A smile stretches across his face as the excitement of catching such a large and powerful animal overtakes him.  Prince may have caught the shark, but this was that day that he became the one hooked. Hooked on the sport of shark fishing.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush,” Prince said. “That’s why I like it. I love to feel the power of a fish that weighs two or three times more than I do. It’s a lot of fun.”

Prince won first place in the 2012 Shark-A-Thon, as well as in South Texas Shark Fest. This year he returned to the Shark-A-Thon tournament where he nabbed second place.

“I want to catch the biggest thing in the water every time I go fishing,” Prince said. “I’m very competitive in nature.”

Prince does not simply participate in the activity for sport. He currently works with American Angler Shark Research to conduct genetic research for bull sharks. Bull sharks, Prince said, have the versatility of surviving in fresh water, making them the shark people come into contact with most. The organization tracks mutations, hybrids, subspecies, migratory patterns and population among the species.

“We catch the bull sharks by rod-and-reel, collect DNA from a fin clip, tag them for research and release the shark back into its natural environment,” Prince said. “We’re always respectful to the fish during this process.”

Prince developed a love for the sport when he began fishing with his family at a young age. The passion began on his grandparents’ property while fishing for bass and catfish. Other times he would take trips off-shore with his uncle.

“I grew up fishing and loving to fish,” Prince said. “I progressed into fly fishing and then started making regular trips to the beach.”

Prince said he hooked his first shark by accident. He was at the beach fishing for red fish when a shark grabbed his bait.

“The first shark took all the line off my reel, and my reel started smoking,” Prince said. “It just broke right there on the spot. I knew it had to have been a shark.”

After that experience, he began researching the internet and investing money in gear and a kayak to take his bait away from the shore. He contacted men in Florida and North Carolina who were catching large fish to get some pointers for success. He travelled out to their homes to learn first hand. 

“I knew I had to surround myself with other people that were successful with the sport,” Prince said. “I credit these guys for helping me become the shark fisherman I am today.”

Prince even utilizes his classroom skill sets into the sport of fishing. When catching sting rays for bait, he applies principles of physics he teaches his own students.

“One of my tactics for getting the sting rays is to use a gig or spear-gun,” Prince said. “But if I shoot directly into the water at what I believe is the sting ray, I’ll miss because of refraction (the bending of light in water). I take that into consideration, so that I can hit the sting ray accurately.”

Now that his skill level has improved,  he makes regular trips to the beach with his son. They live outside for the entire duration, with no access to electricity or running water. Their only breaks from seclusion are trips to the store to stock up on food and water.

“We’ll bring our groceries in a backpack, usually cans of ravioli or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” Prince said. “We’ll take a sleeping bag, an umbrella and a fishing rod. We’ll sleep out there for weeks at a time.”

Prince admits that he and his son never really know what to expect when they are out sleeping on the ground and surviving on the food they have stored in their backpacks.

“Some days are very very slow and quiet. You may sit there for three days straight and never get one shark run,” Prince said.  “But other times, you may catch eight sharks in one day.”

His wife, DHS counselor Danielle Prince, said she prefers to be warm and dry, so she often does not accompany her husband and son on the trips. When they come home, she is both happy and proud to see them and see what they’ve caught.

“I seriously don’t know how he can love fishing round-the-clock for days, in that kind of environment,” Danielle Prince said. “But it’s truly rewarding when both my husband and son catch prize winning sharks. I love the pictures and love that my husband is making memories that will last in the Prince family for generations to come.”

Joseph poses with his son Jackson as he reels in a fish from the shore. (Submitted photo)
Joseph poses with his son Jackson as he reels in a fish from the shore. (Submitted photo)

His 11 year-old son, Jackson has been participating in the sport since he was around six. Joseph Prince said he loves the moments he is able to spend with his son, doing something they both love.

“I love sitting out there with him in the middle of the night, just talking,” Joseph Prince said. “But I also enjoy celebrating our victories after we catch a nice fish. The high-fives and the hugs.”

Jackson Prince recently placed third in the kids division of the Shark-A-Thon tournament. His father said he has transformed from a scared observer to a skilled fisherman.

“He can consistently catch large fish,” Joseph Prince said. “He knows everything it takes.”

Jackson Prince said he works hard for every fish he catches, even though it is also a lot of fun.

“After hundreds of trips, we still try to learn something every time we go to the beach,” Jackson Prince said.

For learning, Jackson Prince said he looks to his father. He said his believes in him and pushes him beyond his limits. He recalls one time at the beach where his father displayed his determination to catch a fish.

“The first time I fought a fish over six feet long, it pulled so hard that it jerked the rod out of my hand,” Jackson Prince said. “My dad took off running and dove into the water after it. He handed it back to me, and I ended up catching the fish.”

Joseph Prince said it is this determination that has made him the fisherman he is today. He looks forward to becoming even better.

“I don’t see the point in doing some thing if you’re not going to give your all,” Joseph Prince said.