Virtually everyone with an interest in sharks knows the reputation of the bull shark.
Some sources list it as the most dangerous shark on the planet but this wildlife journalist believes that has a lot more to do with abundance around swimmers and fishermen and not all to do with attitude.
While filming a television program in 2002 in the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Biloxi, Miss. I caught a five footer. This was part of a taping for television host Keith Warren’s fishing program.
I thought it would be best if we first photographed the shark from the shore (for a magazine story I as working on), so I hopped overboard waded to the bank with the fish still battling and brought it in.
We filmed the whole thing and then talked a bit about bull sharks and shark conservation.
“Sharks like the bull shark are potentially dangerous to man, but they play a valuable role in nature,” I said.
“Sharks are the apex predator in the Gulf of Mexico, and without them, the entire food chain would be disrupted. I occasionally take sharks to eat, but bulls have super thick hide and I think I will release this one to fight another day.”
At this point, Keith and I walked the big shark back out into the water and he demonstrated the proper technique for reviving a fish by pushing water through its gills. The fish seemed worn out but quickly gained its strength. Keith pushed it out toward the deep, and on camera, we said something about a job well done and started to walk back to shore.
Then something caught my eye: The shark we had released had swam out about 20 yards and then turned around toward us. We were in water over our knees a good 30 yards from the bank. There was no way we were going to outrun the shark, so I prepared to kick it the best I could.
As it got about 10 feet from us, it turned sideways for a second as if it shows its authority, and then turned the other direction. We both breathed a sigh of relief and were glad the camera was still running, because we did not think anyone would believe us. We said something about a close call and wrapped up the shoot.
If you think that was a bit ironic, then check out what happened while tagging sharks near Sabine Pass, TX.
I was out with my friends Bill Killian and Clint Starling. We set up near a rig 10 miles south of the jetties and started catching sharks immediately. A few were blacktips and spinners but most were Atlantic sharpnose, sharks, a species often called “sand shark” that grows to a maximum of around four feet in length.
A huge crew boat that services the oil rigs has the entire Gulf to go around but runs full blast about 50 yards out and throws a massive wave. Our boat near capsized and everything in it went flying including the three-foot Atlantic sharpnose I was in the process of tagging.
When we landed back into position the shark fell on my leg and took hold of my calf. A shark does this thing where it grabs with a bite and then takes a hunk. Luckily before it took, a hunk I knocked it back and looked down to see lots of blood.
Bill and Clint were freaking out but I assured them it would be alright. I asked Bill if he had any alcohol or peroxide and he did not.
I looked down and saw a can of Dr. Pepper so I poured that on the wound, figuring it couldn’t hurt, pulled the bandana off my head and contained the bleeding. Bill was wanting to run it but the fish were still biting. We stayed another couple of hours and caught a whole bunch of sharks.
The shark left me a perfect shark jaw scar and a reminder that sometimes even the creatures you are trying to help are wild and free to prey on us if they so choose.
I never got stitches and to this day (this was 1999) have an obvious scar but that encounter only fueled my interests in sharks that continues to this day.
Chester Moore, Jr.