That’s what it feels like during the summer when Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials run longlines in the nearshore Gulf to tag and monitor sharks.
Today TPWD’s Derek York messaged me from offshore with these clips and photos showing an eight foot long, 383-pound male bull shark caught, tagged and release 30 miles west of the Sabine Jetties. That’s somewhere along the Bolivar Peninsula.
Sharks are an extremely important part of the Gulf ecosystem and many species have suffered major declines due to overfishing from commercial longliners as well as some pressure from the recreational fishery.
Work like TPWD is doing this summer with their tagging will help gain a better understanding of sharks in Texas waters and give them a better idea on how to manage these predators. Shark regulations have changed several times in recent years as new research has come to light.
In the past some have questioned the wisdom of releasing big sharks like this but the fact is they are always at the beach during peak tourist season and there are very few attacks-even from the notorious bull shark.
I am in fact preparing a defense of the bull shark article coming later this week. These photos and the video attached inspired me to speak up for a species that gets little love.
I salute York and all of the TPWD crew out working hard to monitor our shark fishery and I think it’s kind of cool this big boy was caught right in the middle of Shark Week.
Chester Moore, Jr.
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Virtually everyone with an interest in sharks knows the reputation of the bull shark.
Some sources list it as the most dangerous shark on the planet but this wildlife journalist believes that has a lot more to do with abundance around swimmers and fishermen and not all to do with attitude.
While filming a television program in 2002 in the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Biloxi, Miss. I caught a five footer. This was part of a taping for television host Keith Warren’s fishing program.
I thought it would be best if we first photographed the shark from the shore (for a magazine story I as working on), so I hopped overboard waded to the bank with the fish still battling and brought it in.
We filmed the whole thing and then talked a bit about bull sharks and shark conservation.
“Sharks like the bull shark are potentially dangerous to man, but they play a valuable role in nature,” I said.
“Sharks are the apex predator in the Gulf of Mexico, and without them, the entire food chain would be disrupted. I occasionally take sharks to eat, but bulls have super thick hide and I think I will release this one to fight another day.”
At this point, Keith and I walked the big shark back out into the water and he demonstrated the proper technique for reviving a fish by pushing water through its gills. The fish seemed worn out but quickly gained its strength. Keith pushed it out toward the deep, and on camera, we said something about a job well done and started to walk back to shore.
Then something caught my eye: The shark we had released had swam out about 20 yards and then turned around toward us. We were in water over our knees a good 30 yards from the bank. There was no way we were going to outrun the shark, so I prepared to kick it the best I could.
As it got about 10 feet from us, it turned sideways for a second as if it shows its authority, and then turned the other direction. We both breathed a sigh of relief and were glad the camera was still running, because we did not think anyone would believe us. We said something about a close call and wrapped up the shoot.
If you think that was a bit ironic, then check out what happened while tagging sharks near Sabine Pass, TX.
I was out with my friends Bill Killian and Clint Starling. We set up near a rig 10 miles south of the jetties and started catching sharks immediately. A few were blacktips and spinners but most were Atlantic sharpnose, sharks, a species often called “sand shark” that grows to a maximum of around four feet in length.
A huge crew boat that services the oil rigs has the entire Gulf to go around but runs full blast about 50 yards out and throws a massive wave. Our boat near capsized and everything in it went flying including the three-foot Atlantic sharpnose I was in the process of tagging.
When we landed back into position the shark fell on my leg and took hold of my calf. A shark does this thing where it grabs with a bite and then takes a hunk. Luckily before it took, a hunk I knocked it back and looked down to see lots of blood.
Bill and Clint were freaking out but I assured them it would be alright. I asked Bill if he had any alcohol or peroxide and he did not.
I looked down and saw a can of Dr. Pepper so I poured that on the wound, figuring it couldn’t hurt, pulled the bandana off my head and contained the bleeding. Bill was wanting to run it but the fish were still biting. We stayed another couple of hours and caught a whole bunch of sharks.
The shark left me a perfect shark jaw scar and a reminder that sometimes even the creatures you are trying to help are wild and free to prey on us if they so choose.
I never got stitches and to this day (this was 1999) have an obvious scar but that encounter only fueled my interests in sharks that continues to this day.
With “Shark Week” about to kick off, I thought it was timely to send out a post to give you some information you have to dig really deep to find.
I commend Discovery for their amazing shark coverage but you can only do so much on television in a week. The following information ranges from the esoteric to the criminally underreported.
Horse Vs. Shark
Sounds like a Syfy Original doesn’t it?
In reality I am talking statistics and according to the Centers for Disease Control sharks kill about one person in the United States annually. Horses kill around 20.
That won’t grab too many headlines because too many media figures and wealthy, influential people have horses but it is a fact.
Sharks are easy to sensationalize but in reality Mr. Ed’s kind has killed far more people than “Jaws”and its family in the United States.
Raw salmon with a splash of soy sauce and a bit of wasabi is one of my favorite food items. Raw salmon is also a favorite of a virtually unknown close cousin of the great white shark-the aptly named salmon shark.
This shark dwells the waters of the northern Pacific and is a fairly common catch on Alaskan fishing vessels.
Ferocious fighters and fast swimmers, the salmon shark is a close cousin to the great white shark. The salmon shark, Lamna ditropis, belongs family Lamnidae with four other species: the great white shark, the shortfin and longfin mako sharks, and the salmon shark’s Atlantic counterpart, the porbeagle (or mackerel) shark.
Salmon sharks (Lamna ditropis) are large, powerful, warm-bodied (endothermic), and streamlined predators adapted for high-speed swimming. Reports from the U.S. Navy have clocked salmon sharks exceeding 50 knots.
This would make the salmon shark one of the fastest fish in the ocean. They are reported to reach 11.9 feet (3.6 m) in total length (Eschmeyer et al. 1983, Compagno 1984). Most of the salmon sharks encountered in Alaskan waters (the northeastern Pacific) are surprisingly uniform: over 93% are females ranging from 6 1/2 to 8 feet (2 – 2.5 m) in length and roughly 300 pounds (136 kg). Salmon sharks in the 700 pound range have been reported by sport fishermen in Alaska.
These sharks are fascinating creatures that rarely come across swimmers or divers and strike fear only into the hearts of sockeye and chinook.
The common blacktip shark is never listed in Internet and television lists of the most dangerous sharks.
While blacktips were only positively identified in one unprovoked fatality they were responsible for 29 total attacks.
That puts only the great white, tiger and bull-the three species everyone recognizes as potentially dangerous above them. We wrote about this last year here but have some new insight.
ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to those branches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.
This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull and to lesser extent spinner sharks (which have 16 attacks attribute to them.)
Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water.
It’s an interesting thing to consider as millions of beachcombers, wade fishermen and divers hit coastal waters.
That’s it for now. Expect much more to come on sharks over the coming two weeks.
Chester Moore, Jr.
(To contact Chester Moore e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)