That bastion of rational thought, PETA, is taking advantage of two recent shark bites to ramp up its campaign against fishing. At both Manhattan Beach in California and Okaloosa Island in Florida, it has been using a plane to fly a banner that says, “Keep Hookers Off Beach--- No Fishing.”
Yeah, it is just so clever with word play, equating anglers with prostitutes.
The incident in California does seem to call for a compromise of some kind regarding who can use the pier and adjoining beach and when they can use it. PETA and other zealots, meanwhile, want an outright ban on sportfishing.
At least Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth is seems to be the voice of reason.
“I don’t like that we’ve demonized fishermen because one guy was behaving seemingly very horribly,” she said. “I certainly want to make it safe for people to enter the water and water sports.”
She added that the city is considering limiting hours for fishing on the pier.
What did or did not happen when a swimmer came too close to the pier, where an angler was fighting a white shark--- and was attacked--- remains the object of debate. The angler has vigorously defended his actions, and the state has declined to prosecute him.
In Florida, meanwhile, a tourist was bitten by a small shark that likely mistook his foot--- or toes--- for fish or shellfish. The media reported that someone was fishing nearby, and PETA took it from there with its anti-fishing campaign.
Almost certainly the shark was a young hammerhead or nurse shark, both of which browse along the bottom in shallow water. Or it might have been a blacktip or spinner, common fish-eating sharks in that area.
The truth is that sharks are common in the shallows all along the coasts of Florida, but the vast majority of them are not man-eaters. Still, I wouldn’t go swimming at night, and I’d always keep a lookout for dorsal fins when I’m in the water during the day. And common sense would tell me not to swim near fishermen.
To show you what I’m talking about, here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies--- Growing Up With Nature, which will be published later this year:
A couple of years passed before I once again was given the chance to figuratively see the light. This time I was fishing with live shrimp along a low seawall near a beach. “Jaws” had come out that year, and many people were afraid to swim in the ocean.
The 10 or 12 people down to my right, however, either had not seen the movie or didn’t care. Through their yelling and splashing, they left no doubt that they were having a good time.
As I watched them and waited for a bite, I saw a dorsal fin cutting through the water between the beach and the swimmers. “No, it couldn’t be,” I said to myself.
It was. A large shark cruised through the shallows, on its way toward me. I considered yelling to warn the people. But I decided against it, since the predator didn’t seem to be interested in them.
As it neared me, I saw that it was an 8- to 10-foot nurse shark, which is not a man-eater. But it was my first opportunity in a long time to finally catch a big ocean fish.
I cast the shrimp a few feet in front of the shark and waited. I was not disappointed. The big fish took, and I set the hook. In an instant the shark accelerated from a leisurely feeding pace to light speed, as it headed toward deep water.
It ran, and ran, and ran, until it had pulled all the line off my reel. Then the rod bent double, the butt slammed into my stomach, and the knot popped. The shark was gone.
(If you like fish stories, you’ll enjoy my latest book, Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen.)