Steve Gibson is an avid angler, writer and photographer who lives in Sarasota, Fla. Follow his daily pursuits and thoughts through his blog.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tiger shark sends swimmers running for dry sand
Fishing success is relative.
I'm certain success is not based on number of fish caught. I am certain it's based on the enjoyment you get from a particular outing.
That happened to me today. This was my third day in a row fly fishing for snook along the beach. It also was my worst day in terms of number of fish caught. I totaled three small snook and a ladyfish. Not great by any stretch of the imagination.
However, I had a great day.
I saw an abundance of wildlife: ibis, snowy egrets, blue herons, osprey, pelicans, terns, skimmers, cormorants, frigate birds and others.
I also saw a magnificent spotted eagle ray gliding along in the shallows of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
When I first stepped onto the beach at Casey Key, I saw an angler in a skiff battling a large tarpon. I also saw three schools of tarpon.
The hilite of the day was when a large tiger shark swam into the surf and made its way down the beach toward the public swimming area. I was fighting a snook at the time and I thought the shark was homing in on my fish.
By the time I got to the swimming area, the water was vacant -- except for the shark. A lifeguard was slapping his surfboard on the water in an attempt to persuade the shark to leave.
One problem: The shark obviously was sick or injured. It was lying on its back in two feet of water.
A small fish swam around the shark.
"It just gave birth," some on in the crowd said.
Wishful thinking. It was a cobia, a species that's known to hang out around sharks. I have no idea why they do that, but they do.
The scene was pretty funny. Everyone was suddenly a shark expert.
"Yeah, it's a 10-foot mako," someone said.
I overheard a fellow saying, "That shark was hooked by a fisherman just up the beach. It apparently swallowed the hook and died."
There was a shark tournament over the weekend. Although the tourney was catch-and-release, the shark could have swallowed the hook and been injured in the process.
It could have been any number of things.
"You need to get it out of the water," one man told the lifeguard. "That's shark's dead. Get rid of it so we can swim."
I was amazed by the hot tempers. People don't like to be inconvenienced at all.
Suddenly, the "dead" shark righted itself and began to thrash its large tail. It slowly swam away from the beach toward deeper water.
Last time I saw the shark, it was at least 100 yards offshore.
The red flag was still flying at the lifeguard station.
Got to make sure the shark is gone.
I fish the beach quite often during the summer and see plenty of sharks. And they're not all little sharks. I've seen bull sharks, hammerheads, lemons and now tigers. I've seen them within a few feet of the beach.
One thing I've discovered is most beach-goers are oblivious to what's happening in the water. Most pay no attention.
I don't swim in the gulf. I've seen too many sharks over the years. I know the odds of a shark attack are great, but I'm not taking that chance.