Blacktip shark bites fisherman during release near Placida

Published: August 11, 2020 2:59 PM EDT
Updated: August 12, 2020 11:00 AM EDT

At 4:30 p.m. Monday, FWC received a report from Charlotte County 911 about a shark bite near Placida.

According to the report, a 55-year-old man was fishing on his boat near Boca Grande Causeway when he caught a 6-foot blacktip shark, and, in the process of unhooking the shark, he was bitten on his left forearm.

Capt. Yanni Melissas has been fishing in the waters around the Boca Grande Causeway for years. He owns Boca Grande Tarpon Company on Gasparilla Island. He said it’s not uncommon to see blacktip sharks and other types of sharks swimming around the water.

“Blacktip sharks are one of the most common sharks that we catch,” Melissas said. “It’s usually a ‘bycatch,’ meaning we’re not going after it.”

That’s what Melissas thinks happened to the fisherman who was bitten while trying to release the shark.

“The 6-foot shark could have been 100 pounds,” Melissas said. “It’s a severe bite. It can be a serious bite.”

Those planning to swim in the water nearby said it doesn’t scare them.

“I don’t feel like it would be a threat to us because we don’t go out that deep,” visitor Victoria Tatchin said.

But Melissas said this is a good reminder to fishermen to be extra careful when releasing a shark that is accidentally caught.

“You just don’t wanna get your hands anywhere near them,” Melissas said. “You don’t want to underestimate their strength.”

The man suffered non- life-threatening injuries and was transported by Charlotte County EMS to Englewood Hospital.

FWC continues to investigate the incident.

“Try to use hooks that will rust out if you are going to leave the hook in,” Melissas said. “Or use a circle hook that will get stuck in the corner of the mouth and then you have access to it easier.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recognizes that sharks are powerful animals. Therefore, they created the following list of techniques for safe handling and releasing of any sharks. These are meant to minimize injury to both the animal and the person:

  • Minimize fight time. Use Shark-Smart tackle.
  • Do not specifically target sharks if the surf is too rough to release appropriately and safely. 
  • Keep sharks, especially the gills, in the water.
  • Removing sharks from the water can increase the likelihood of injuries to the shark.
  • Never bring a large shark onto a fishing vessel, a pier or bridge or onto dry land beyond the surf zone unless you plan to harvest it.
  • Minimize handling and release time and do not delay release just to take pictures.
  • Do not sit on the shark’s back.
  • Use a long-handled dehooking device to help with hook removal if it does not delay release.
  • If you cannot safely and quickly remove the hook from the mouth, a bolt cutter may be used to cut the hook. If this method delays release or it becomes unsafe to do so, leave the hook in the shark and cut the leader as close to the hook as you can. Wire leaders can be cut with wire cutters.
  • Sharks that swim off with a long length of line trailing behind them may be less likely to survive.

For more information about sharks and how to handle them if you encounter one, visit their website.