Josh Jorgensen is obsessed with trying to reel in sea monsters — and more viewers. He’s become the world’s most popular fishing star on social media — his YouTube videos passed a billion views last year.
It’s been quite a journey for a kid who grew up north of the border, in Windsor, Ontario.
“I’ve always been absolutely in love with fishing. In 2003, my parents got a condo in Florida and we started coming down here on vacation. I saw a guy catch a shark from the beach and I was like, ‘I have to start doing that,'” Jorgensen told CBS News’ Jeff Glor.
Jorgensen said he would catch sharks on the beach and then bring pictures of his catch back home to Canada, but no one believed that he caught them on the beach.
“They said, “Oh, you caught it on a boat and brought it to shore. There’s no sharks at the beach.” So I started filming and posted on YouTube. I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.
The videos took off, and in 2008 Jorgenson created BlacktipH. Fueled by advertising dollars from YouTube, he’s been on fishing adventures around the world. He’s currently based in Jupiter, Florida.
“There’s no way we would have ever been able to capture the audience we did without living in Florida. Florida’s amazing,” Jorgenson said.
On one trip, Jorgenson was pulled out of the boat by a catch. “I was trying to do it all by myself, and that wasn’t smart,” he said.
For Jorgensen, the filming is just as enjoyable as the fishing. But these days, it is even more challenging. Part of the problem: a numbed audience.
“What worked two, three years ago doesn’t work now,” he said. “It would always be like the fish would be a major part of the story but we realized that we kind of caught everything, so from a business perspective we need to make it more about the adventure and not so much about catching this one fish.”
Adventure and adrenaline may still pay the bills, but they are not BlacktipH’s only missions. Jorgenson said protection and preservation are also a critical part of the operation.
“We just really need to focus on our water quality and we need to focus on sustainable fishing regulations, you know? We need to reduce limits, create more slot sizes,” Jorgenson said.
He said people shouldn’t necessarily catch less, but keep less.
“Do you really need to keep 60 Mahi a day? No. It’s ridiculous. You know, it takes hours to filet them and what do you do with 500 pounds of Mahi meat?” said Jorgenson.
“I want my kids to be able to enjoy what I’ve enjoyed, you know? I want to have a sustainable fishery,” he said. “It’s really important to respect the fish that you’re catching, especially when you’re catching a large fish. Large fish are normally breeders, so you want to take good care of them. You want to make sure that they’re healthy when you release them. You want to make sure that you don’t fight them too long.”
He started his journey 15 years ago and said the ocean looks very different now.
“There were so much more fish back then. And that’s nothing. Can you imagine what it was like 60 years ago, 100 years ago? If I could have a time machine I would go back and go fishing,” Jorgenson said.