When Sharks Die we all lose.
The video above covers the events that occurred in the article. This is an article I don't enjoy writing simply because of the nature of the topic. However this article serves to prevent future tragedies and educate the novice shark fishermen.
This past weekend I was Shark fishing off the beach with my girlfriend and our buddy, when tragedy struck. We had our spread out and got a number of runs, but no fish that wanted to commit. An hour into fishing another group of land based shark fishermen, set up camp just a few hundred yards south of us.
I did not recognize the fishermen, but they proceeded to paddle out baits and were making rather short drops just 50 yards off the beach. An hour after they had all their rods in the water, we noticed they hooked up to what looked like a nice fish. We also noticed they were using rather light gear compared to what most land based shark fishermen use these days. Equipped with a TLD 50W as their biggest reel and the reel they fought the shark on.
Hammer Heads on Light equipment.
To fast forward things, they ended up fighting the shark for an hour before we finally saw the fish in the surf and it was a Hammerhead, unmistakable by their massive dorsal fin. We heard the group cheering in joy when they identified the species and they finally landed it.
1 minute turns to 5.
1 minute of it being on the beach turned into 5 minutes and we knew that sealed the sharks fate. We watched from afar as the anglers tried to revive the hammerhead for several minutes. All we saw was the lifeless Shark getting tossed sideways by the breaking surf. We knew it was game over for them.
Do Not Bring Your Hammerhead Way Up On The Beach
I decided it was time to make my way over there and offer to help. The anglers looked very upset and knew they had done something wrong and I explained to them that they had it out of the water far too long. They only thought they had it out of the water for 1.5 minutes, but I explained to them we saw them and it was a good 5 minutes. I told the guy that their best bet now is to paddle the shark back out, to a distance far enough to minimize the risk of the shark washing back up. He agreed and we started to rig up the kayak for the mission. We ran over to my campsite and by the time we came back to his, we noticed the hammerhead started to kick its tail a little. The hammerhead managed to barely get over the sandbar and we still to the day do not know if he made it out there alive. We stayed at the beach for an hour more and scanned the shoreline north and south a considerable distance and did not see the Hammerhead anywhere to be found.
I'm not here to pass judgement on the angler, as he was very apologetic as well as remorseful. It was his first hammerhead and we all know how fishing can make us go crazy, and I'm sure he will never make the same mistake again. I wanted to share this story so others don't have to make the same mistake.
Many of you may know that hammerheads will fight to the death compared to other sharks. I don't believe they actually "fight to the death" ,but rather they are biologically predisposed to fight more than other sharks simply based on anatomical design. They have the largest tail of any shark comparatively to others we have in Florida and I believe this to be the main reason for their brute power.
Now let's discuss your options if you ever have a shark die on you!
1. This only applies to sharks that are NOT protected! A list of protected species can be found here for Florida.
http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltw...You can harvest the shark or bury it in the sand on the beach, making sure you do so with respect to beachgoers and dig a deep enough hole to ensure the shark will decompose without being uncovered.
2. All PROTECTED species MUST be returned to the water whether they died or not.
Now to return a shark from the beach 300 yards out or more is no easy task, but it can be done. Your best bet is to kayak out the shark a distance far enough to make sure it does not wash back up. I would say 300 yards or more is enough. Keep your safety in mind when doing so and do not attempt this if the surf is very rough!
Keep in mind that any Protected species of shark such as hammerheads are not to be harvested and removing a shark from the water is technically intent to harvest and may get you a fine. However FWC is rather understanding of the nature of Land based shark fishing and they know it is nearly impossible to unhook, let alone cut the line of a shark without immobilizing it. It would be EXTREMELY dangerous and unproductive to try and unhook or even cut the wire from a shark with it still swimming around you. With that said I believe the angler has to make an educated decision and act accordingly in regards to subduing a shark, by pulling it onto the shore.
Here are some tips to help prevent future fatalities!!
1. The anglers in this story were under-gunned when it came to their gear and a 9ft hammerhead such as the one in the story should have been landed much quicker than one hour. The long fight can lead to serious exhaustion and predispose any fish for that matter to death. The lesson here is to use as heavy of gear as possible to ensure short fight times.
2. Try to leave at least the head of the shark in the water this way water is flowing through its gills.
3. Use the 1 minute rule!! I also exercise this method and it has served me well over the years. 1 minute is more than enough time to remove a hook/cut wire, photograph your catch and star to drag it back in the water. Do not have the shark out of the water for more than one minute. If I held you underwater for 5 minutes and you were an inexperienced diver, I'm sure you would come close to near death as well! I don't think this scenario is much different as these are living creatures that need oxygen to live and by leaving them on a beach for 5 minutes, you are essentially depriving them off this.
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