Fishing for Sharks

Fishing for Sharks

By: Tia Hildebrandt

I ain’t afraid of no…sharks? Even though the Halloween Holiday is fast approaching, it turns out that there are daunting creatures lurking in the ocean all year long.  If you have ever seen Jaws, you will know the intense fear that these animals can instill in humans. Yes, I am talking about sharks. If you fear them, do not worry because you are not alone. 

Now we all know that there are sharks in Tampa Bay, however, it is not something we readily think of while we are paddle boarding with friends…or is it?  Eckerd, being the marine focused school that it is, obviously attracts students interested in sharks, and these students prefer to get hands on and experience all the ocean has to offer. 

Who knew that there were Eckerd students fishing for sharks off of the pier on campus? I would not have believed it was happening (or how serious it really is) if I had not experienced the chaos first hand.  I am in no way a fisherwoman. I do not even eat fish – just the smell makes me want to vomit!  With all of this in mind, I could not pass up the chance to go night fishing with a friend during Autumn Term since part of the whole college experience is reaching out of your comfort zone and experiencing new things.  I expected we would catch catfish since my friend had warned me that was the only thing he had been able to catch the last few days. I made him put the frozen shrimp on the hook (yes, the smell was making me ill… plus I am a germaphobe, and I was not going to touch a piece of raw shrimp), but he let me cast the line. He rated my cast as a…well… let me just say it was a pretty poor cast, and he was reeling my line back in when he felt a tug on the line.  I immediately knew that a fish was hooked, and that it was something big because my friend’s face lit up.  He excitedly handed the pole to me and helped me reel the line in.  And I needed his help because whatever was on the other end was BIG!  As the end of the line neared the surface I realized through the darkness that I had caught a shark!  I had caught a 2’ long bonnethead shark!  It was the most exhilarating thing ever, and it was then that I realized why there are always people fishing off of the pier. 

According to my Eckerd sources, the best bait to use while fishing for sharks is live mullet.  Obtaining them is the hard part since you will need a cast net, a sharp eye, and a good aim. You can skip the mullet, though, as the frozen shrimp at the Waterfront will work and are readily available.  Additionally, the pier is the favorite and most successful spot if you plan to try your hand at shark fishing. My inside sources fish off the pier multiple days every week, and believe me, they have been very successful catching a variety of sharks such as the scalloped hammerhead, bonnethead, black tip, and sharpnose.

I guess sharks are not all that scary…when I caught my first it did not bite me or injure me in any way. Of course, my friend didn’t make me unhook the beast, either.  Just keep in mind, though, the next time you visit South Beach or the pier:  you are not alone!