From Samantha Grillo @_samanthagrillo

A CONTROVERSIAL team of fishermen catch enormous sharks while their feet are firmly planted on dry land

Duration: 24:01 Minutes

Distributor: Barcroft Media

William Smith of Team True Blue attempts to reel in a giant shark off the coast of Florida

The practice, which has been condemned by animal rights groups, will be featured in a brand new Barcroft Original Documentary 'Landing Sharks.'

Team True Blue, which features Earnie Polk, 43, his cousins Joey Polk, 29, Kenny Peterson, 21 and friend William Smith, 21, attempt to break their own world records by reeling in the giant sea beasts from the shore.

The team often spend up to seven days a week trying to catch gigantic tiger and mako sharks from the shores of Florida, USA and claim that the practice helps with shark conservation. 

But animal rights activists claim the sport is cruel and leads to suffering and often death for the sharks.

Last summer Barcroft followed the team on an epic two-day excursion to a secret location where they attempted to land, tag and release sharks.

The fishermen say their practice is helping with shark conservation

Earnie, who is a third generation shark fisherman, said: “My grandfather once fished the same piers I fish. 

“My first fish that I caught - it was an adrenaline rush. Once I hooked that fish I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” 

True Blue’s members hold world records for their catches - including the land based world record mako shark that weighed more than 800lbs.

Earnie Polk is a third generation shark fisherman

The team catch the sharks by baiting their hooks with stingrays or other fish and taking a boat out to sea to drop the lines and lure the sharks in.

Once the fishermen have a bite they wrestle frantically from the shore to land the sharks so they can be tagged and released.

Earnie said: "It’s something that’s in your soul, it’s like an addiction.

“When we catch a fish it’s a group fish - it isn’t one person, it’s a team.”

True Blue's members hold world records for their catches

But while shark fishing may be a way of life for Earnie - the practice has been blasted by animal rights groups.

Ashley Byrne, a PETA campaign specialist, said: “Shark fishing is extremely cruel and completely unnecessary whether they are being caught from a boat or land.

“The sharks suffer immensely when they’re caught for sport.

“Most sharks caught in catch and release fishing, if they don’t die immediately from exhaustion, will succumb to their injuries in days.” 

However, team True Blue stands by their fishing methods and claim they are helping scientists study the species.

Team True Blue sometimes spend up to seven days a week trying to catch giant sharks
Their records include the land based world Mako Shark that weighed more than 800 lbs

Earnie said” “We tagged and released over 300 sharks last year off the beaches and piers.”

Will said: “When another fisherman catches that fish they’ll remove the tag, report it to the National Marine Fisheries Wildlife and send messages and paperwork regarding how far it travelled and how much it’s grown.” 

The first day of True Blue’s summer expedition proved unsuccessful after the team spent thirteen hours trying to land a big fish.

While shark fishing may be a way of life for True Blue - the practice has been blasted by animal rights groups

Earnie said: “Some days we pull six sharks out and sometimes we go a month without getting a bite. We keep on trying and press on.” 

When night fell, Earnie and Kenny set out in a kayak in the darkness to catch the next day’s bait.

Their second day looked grim as well as the weather turned and the team were forced to take cover.

After a day and a half at the beach they caught nothing.

Earnie Polk said the team tagged and released more than 300 sharks last year

But once the storm passed, the youngest member of the team, Will, put himself in the center of the action.

After putting up a fight he successfully reeled in a 12ft 5in tiger shark.

Fighting back tears, Will described his experience as an emotional one.

William Smith is the youngest member of Team True Blue

He said: “It’s almost a spiritual thing - there’s nothing better in the world than reeling in these sharks.”

“I was finally able to land the best shark of my life and I’m glad my team were with me.” 

The shark was tagged and released.

The team pose with a 12ft 5in tiger shark that William Smith reeled in