Captain Mike Carter couldn’t believe his eyes when he arrived at the Spring Creek boat ramp on Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama Wednesday: There on the dock was a dead shark close to four feet long! Since Guntersville is about 350 miles from the nearest saltwater, Carter was amazed. So were other anglers who saw the mini-jaws later; the shark made it on a number of radio news programs in the Tennessee Valley area before being transferred to the dumpster.
So where does a shark come from this far inland? The only explanation that makes sense is that some angler who had visited the coast saw an opportunity for a great practical joke and brought the shark home in his XL ice chest, positioning it on the dock in the middle of the night, no doubt after consumption of a few adult beverages. (If you’re the culprit, we’d love to hear from you.)
Not to say sharks never enter fresh water. Bull sharks, which are highly tolerant of low-salt environments, have been recorded as far as 100 miles up the Mississippi River. But in order for this shark to have arrived in G’ville naturally, it would have had to pass through numerous locks as well as traveling hundreds of river miles in totally fresh water. Didn’t happen.
In any case, Captain Carter is taking I all in stride.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I figure out the shark pattern,” said Carter.
You may recognize Carter’s name–he’s the guide who caught the 12-pound largemouth held up by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley a few months back in a photo op for introduction of the Alabama Bass Trail. Carter kept that giant female alive and gave her to Bass Pro Shops, which has had her in quarantine at its Missouri facility to assure her health before transferring her back to Alabama this week to appear as star of their store aquarium at Prattville, just north of Montgomery.
Other thoughts from the bassing world:
The more we fish, the better-but some anglers are starting to ask themselves if it makes sense to hold tournaments during the heat of summer when mortality of released bass tends to run high.
Often, fish survive the weigh-in and release process, but then float up dead hours or days afterwards. The stress of being in a livewell where hot surface water is circulated, plus the general stress of handling in hot weather, is too much for them.
Not to say that a percentage of bass dying is likely to deplete populations in any of our lakes-don’t forget, in years past, most of those fish caught and released would have wound up taking their last swim in bubbling peanut oil.
There’s 100 percent mortality on filleted fish, as a Florida biologist once told me.
But by eliminating tournaments between July and mid-September, particularly in the South, clubs and tournament organizations could better protect bass populations and avoid the ire of local anglers who often see the results of Sunday weigh-ins on Monday or Tuesday.
Or, another solution, particularly for club tourneys with low cash incentives, is to follow the lead of the Florida Coastal Conservation Association, which for the past 20-odd years has run “photo-release” tournaments. Captured fish are placed on a tournament-supplied measuring stick and then digitally photographed. The fish are then immediately put back in the water-no livewell trip. At the weigh-in, the photos determine the winner-and with the right equipment can be flashed on a leader-board screen to add drama to the event.
Because the fish are released almost immediately, there’s near 100 percent survival on this type of tournament, no backlash due to dead fish around the ramps afterwards, and yet the element of competition is preserved. Not a bad way to go, the way it looks from this corner.