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'Shark Week' News & Notes: Possible Tiger Shark Record, Recent Incidents

G&F News Digest: There's been a lot of shark news lately. Here's a look:

'Shark Week' News & Notes: Possible Tiger Shark Record, Recent Incidents

The serrated teeth of a tiger shark (Photo courtesy of David Rainer /  Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)

You may have noticed that last week was the annual Shark Week programming on TV’s Discovery Channel, an annual week of shows that has captivated viewers since 1988. And true to form, there’s been a lot of shark news of late. With that, here’s a shark-heavy edition of the weekly G&F News Digest package as July gets ready to turn into August.

America’s Long Fascination with Sharks

Truth be told, Americans have long been fascinated with sharks, especially since Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster film "Jaws." But our interest in the so-called “tax man” of the saltwater flats, or the “man in the gray suit,” as some guides and anglers call them, goes decades beyond that in America. How far? Would you believe at least back to the days when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House?

tiger shark caught off Alabama gulf coast
This potential Alabama saltwater record tiger shark caught during the 90th annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo weighed 1,019 pounds. (Photo courtesy of ADSFR)

In 1908, A.W. Dimrock, an early Florida writer who described an unspoiled world in the Sunshine State, wrote of catching a tarpon and having the local version of Jaws show up as he battled the big silver king on a rod and reel.

  • “The leap of the doomed fish was feeble and late, the cruel jaws closed over him, for yards around the water was crimson, the tarpon was dead,” wrote Dimrock. “As the great fin of the sea-tiger swept past, less than his length from me, the voice of the camera man, safe on the beach, came from behind me: 'Couldn’t you have stood a bit nearer? A little more human interest would have made that a bully picture.'"

Get nearer to the shark for a better photo? Hmm, the camera man must have been related to Mr. Spielberg!

Monster Tiger Shark Caught in Alabama Deep Sea Rodeo

If you didn't already have enough reason to avoid getting wet in the saltwater this summer, how about this big-shark news item? That's the catch of a potential state-record tiger shark at the recently completed 90th annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo off Dauphin Island. The potential record-breaking shark came when angler Brett Rutledge brought the huge fish to the first-day scales where it weighed 1,019 pounds.

If certified by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as a new record, the huge tiger shark will beat the previous record caught on June 24, 1990, when Gulf Shores, Ala., angler Larry G. Eberly landed a 988-pound, 8-ounce monster tiger shark off the Alabama gulf coast.

As excited as Rutledge was for catching the record-breaker, Mississippi State University professor and assistant rodeo judge Dr. Marcus Drymon was even more excited at the rare opportunity to examine the shark and collect valuable data.

"My team is taking samples, specifically vertebrae, which is what we use to tell how old these sharks are,” Drymon said in an Outdoor Alabama news release from the state's DNR. “When we do age-based stock assessments, the age structure of the population is critical. So, when we are able to perform research on these large individuals, it’s good for us to be able to determine the health of the stock.

“But we will also take a host of other samples, like fin clips, muscle tissue and biopsies from the liver and spleen. We will look at stomach contents. Every sample that can possibly be used will be taken from these fish.”




That gives Dr. Drymon and other scientists important clues about the health of shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shark Attacks Boat Near Florida Coast

On cue with Shark Week’s appearance, there has been another wave of news about shark-bite incidents, including one of a bull shark trying to recreate one of the climatic scenes in the movie "Jaws."

That happened in late July when the large bull shark repeatedly attacked a fishing boat off the eastern coast of Florida as its occupants were fishing for cobia. Instead, the shark tried to make the boat near Palm Beach its own daily dinner as an Instagram video showed the big bull repeatedly biting the engines, which was filmed with a drone.

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The bull shark slammed into the big boat hard enough that it shuddered a few times. Josh Jorgensen, host of the BlacktipH Fishing YouTube channel, indicated to the Palm Beach Post that the multiple attacks on the big rig owned by Capt. Carl Torresson of Slob City Charters out of Riviera Beach left "catastrophic damage" to the engines.

“The shark attacked the boat five times, swam away and then came back for more,” Jorgensen told the Post. “In total, the shark attacked Carl’s boat eight times.”

"I didn’t think a shark could actually shake a boat like that," Torresson said in the video about significant damage done to the propeller and trim tab region of the twin outboards. "The boat was shaking like a bag of popcorn. Like literally, I was shaking like an earthquake. I was like, what’s going on? I went back there and I noticed it was a shark doing it. I’m like, are you kidding me? This is like a ride from Universal Studios.”

Shark Bite Incidents on Gulf, Atlantic Coasts

Big fishing rigs aren’t the only things getting bitten by sharks these days, with a slew of shark bite reports from Florida to South Carolina.

The first was the weekend before last in Hilton Head, S.C., where a 60-year-old man was apparently bitten in the foot by an unknown shark and transported to a local hospital after paramedics responded. Officials closed a portion of the beach after the shark-bite incident, but no other details were available.

Then, this past weekend, there was a report of a 20-something young man being bitten by a shark on his lower leg while in the water on the north end of Anna Maria Island near Tampa Bay.

Florida Surfer Plans to Hang Ten Again After Shark Bite

Those shark-bite incidents come after a member of the University of Central Florida surf team was bitten in mid-July while at New Smyrna Beach, Fla. A shark came under the surfboard of 21-year-old Chris Pospisil and tipped him off the board, then biting his foot as he fell backwards and dragged the surfer under the water, according to Fox 35 Orlando TV news station.

When Pospisil got free and resurfaced, his good friend and fellow surfer Reece Redish was responding, and grabbed the surfer's shirt and pulled him onto his surf board. Pospisil believes that may have saved his life, keeping him out of the water and able to make it back to shore, where doctors would repair injured tendons and remove a shark tooth from a bone.

Now walking on crutches, the surfer faces several weeks of healing and physical therapy. Once healed of what he believes was a spinner shark attack—the tooth recovered didn't have serrations—he and Redish plan on returning to the ocean with their surfboards.

"It hasn’t changed anything," Pospisil told the Orlando station. "I’m definitely going to keep surfing. It’s my lifestyle, and it’s something I love to do."

Shark Bite Incidents Remain Rare

There’s certainly been a rash of high-profile news reports on shark bite incidents as of late. Other incidents included a horrific fatal attack in Egyptian waters (that was filmed), another video showing a kayaker’s rig being attacked off the coast of Hawaii, a Connecticut woman reportedly losing her leg after a shark attack while vacationing in the Turks and Caicos and an Iowa woman losing her leg following a shark attack while she was climbing aboard a dive boat in the Bahamas.

But even with all of that news, it's worth noting that despite the annual frenzy on TV and reports of shark attacks, such incidents were actually below normal two of the last three years, according to statistics from the International Shark Attack File maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Officials with FMNH investigated 108 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide in 2022 and confirmed that there were 57 unprovoked bites and 32 provoked bites. The U.S. led the world's shark-bite incident file last year when there were 41 unprovoked shark attacks in U.S. waters and one fatality.

Shark Week may be over for another year, but America’s fascination with great whites, hammerheads, bull sharks, tiger sharks, blacktip sharks and more will likely continue unabated.

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