By Ben Smith:
Duuuun dun, duuuuun dun, dun dun dun dun dun dun dun…you know the song. We are nearing the end of July and approaching one of my favorite weeks of the year, shark week! I can sit in front of my television for hours watching show after show about sharks. The scarier the show, the better it is. I don’t care about the Spiny Dogfish Shark peacefully swimming along. I want to see a Great White exploding out of the water destroying a bait box! Show me a Tiger Shark ripping apart a kayak! This is the finest real life entertainment, aside from political debates, that television has to offer.
You’ve gotta love summertime along the Gulf Coast because it never fails to happen. Some Midwesterner comes down to the beach and sees a shark in the water and all heck breaks loose. Video cameras come out, people running up and down the beach screaming and pointing, news trucks rushing to the scene. It’s absolute chaos people! Now, we’ve got to fly purple flags along the coastline to let folks know that there is “dangerous marine life” in the water (insert laughing hysterically emojis). Whodathunkit? I mean, when you go to Wal-Mart, do you go nuts when you see a grown man with hair all over his back wearing high heels and carrying a purse? Absolutely not. That’s where these people live. Same goes for sharks.
Furthermore, it’s not the sharks that you see that should freak you out. It’s the ones you don’t see. I like to refer to these as “assault sharks.” They are the ones lurking in the shadows just waiting for you to tinkle in the ocean. That’s when they attack (need to test this theory with the Discovery Channel). Can you imagine telling people that peeing in the ocean attracts sharks? We should probably put that out there regardless of whether its true, or not, to keep from swimming in expelled Bud Light.
On a serious note, yes folks, sharks live in the ocean. And yes, regardless of whether you see them or not while you’re on vacation, they are there amongst you. And yes, sometimes people are bitten by sharks at times resulting in the loss of limbs and even death. While tragic, the odds of this happening are rare. Studies show that you have a one out of 3.7 million chance of being attacked by a shark. You’ve got much higher percentage of drowning due to the rip currents along the Florida coast than you do of a shark attack. This is actually something that we’ve seen entirely too much of this summer, and something that is of relevant concern. If the double red flags are flying at the beach, and you aren’t Michael Phelps, probably best to sit this one out.
Back to sharks. I’m not going to say that I don’t have a rational fear of sharks, because I do. However, I’ve always been fascinated with them. Probably because my dad let me watch “Jaws” well before I probably should have been allowed to. That scene where the shark launches out of the water onto the boat gave me nightmares for weeks. For years I really thought that could happen, and heck, maybe it could. I did see a video the other day of a Tiger Shark trying to knock over a kayak fisherman. Fortunately, the fisherman was okay and was gracious enough to share the video for all of the world to see. But I’ll bet you at some point during the event he was thinking, “I’m gonna need a bigger boat.”
Speaking of fishing, we recently talked a little spearfishing on the “Pinstripes to Camo Podcast.” Co-host, Hunter McCool, is completely eaten up (no pun intended) with this newfound hobby. The thing about spearfishing is that you can’t have a conversation about it without bringing up sharks. Unless you live without cable tv, or in the Midwest, you know that fish in distress attract sharks. A fish that’s just been shot with a steel rod is about as distressed as fish get. This is obviously like ringing a dinner bell for sharks and other predatory fish. When I asked Hunter what he does to make sure he keeps sharks at length, I didn’t get the response that I thought I would. I expected him to say that he let the fish hang at a safe distance from him to keep sharks away. Nope. He told me that he brings the fish up to him as quickly as possible and pretty much hugs it until he reaches the surface. Wait, what? Like I said earlier, I have a rational fear of sharks, so I don’t intend to hug their lunch. Now, I don’t know whether this is the correct way to haul in your kill, or if he’s just a lunatic, but Hunter described it as letting other predatory fish, including sharks, know that this fish is yours. I’m gonna go with lunatic.
I tell all of you that story to ease your minds. If Hunter is thirty miles offshore, wrestling red snapper away from hungry Bull sharks, and hasn’t died yet…you’re probably okay swimming with a couple of Hammerheads seeing that they’ve never been responsible for a human death. Just don’t go fishing with a guy named “Quint”…and don’t pee in the water.