ST. PETERSBURG — The Pier Aquarium's shark exhibits were open to visitors Wednesday morning, but the real show was right outside.
Two young men were showing off a 9-foot female bull shark they caught hours before at the Pier. The carcass was in the back of a small pickup truck, blood dripping onto the pavement. A small crowd snapped digital photos.
"It was either him or us," 19-year-old Joshua Lipert of St. Petersburg told an onlooker. "Look who lost."
His fishing buddy agreed. "It was a dogfight," said Robert Korkoske, 16, who helped reel in the shark.Using a 100-pound Dacron fishing line and sea rays for bait, the young men fought the animal for two hours from the northeastern end of the pier before landing it about 6:15 a.m., they said.
They dragged it to a small beach on the western end.
A trophy kill, they called it.
"We like to cut the jaws out, hang them on the wall as a souvenir," said Korkoske, who said the pair have caught several sharks before.Though the shark had not been put on ice and was outdoors for hours after the kill, Lipert said he would offer the meat to relatives. Taking it to a taxidermist was too expensive, he said.
Butch Ringelspaugh, curator of exhibits for the Pier Aquarium, estimated the shark weighed 350 to 500 pounds.He wasn't surprised to find a shark that size swimming around the Pier. "This is bull shark territory out here," Ringelspaugh said.
Still, he noted the irony that the museum educates the public about the importance of protecting sharks. While bull sharks are not endangered, state law limits the catch to one a day. They are among the most dangerous sharks in the world, Ringelspaugh said.
The curator would have preferred it if Ringelspaugh had released the shark, which he estimated was 15 to 25 years old. At that age, a healthy female could be pregnant, Ringelspaugh said.
"The thing is, it takes a long time for them to reach sexual maturity, and by the time they do, very few of their young will make it to adulthood," he said. "Sharks as a whole are definitely down in numbers. Over 100 million sharks a year are killed by humans."
Brent Winner, an associate research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission, dropped by and took a blood sample to study for mercury. He turned down an offer to take the whole shark, but later offered his opinion on killing it: "It's his right to kill that fish. But you would hope that someone doesn't kill for trophy alone."
Based on weight, age, and the plumpness of its belly, Winner believed the shark was pregnant with six or eight pups.
Help find a solution
SFMI concedes that this particular Bull shark was caught from a pier, yet principle of a Shark-Free Marinas remains the same. The St Petersberg Pier is adjacent to the City of St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.
St. Petersburg Municipal Marina
300 2nd Ave. S.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Or email to: Marina@stpete.org
Please remember they are a business and we will not condone slander of any kind. Instead let the manager know why your business is important and why they have an obligation to monitor their patrons activities. As this is a municiple marina community concerns will be taken to council for a decision, so be polite and be heard.