Island News, Shark Fishing Time
When Pasco County Sheriff's
spokesman Kevin Doll issued a shark alert Tuesday morning for
the gulf waters west of the Gulf Harbors subdivision, he set
off a feeding frenzy. A media feeding frenzy, that is.
TV news helicopters buzzed the
skies, and the footage was beamed across the country courtesy
of CNN. Photographers climbed aboard a 17-foot motorboat
piloted by a sheriff's deputy. And a Times reporter
commissioned a fellow reporter's husband to whisk her around
the sandy beaches of Anclote Key.
"We're not trying to
sensationalize it," Doll said. "We knew, in light of
recent high profile shark attacks and just the fact of humans'
fascination with sharks, that it would have a high media
Doll said he wanted to warn
swimmers and boaters after a marine patrol deputy noticed
hundreds of sharks swimming in the gulf this week. Marine
Patrol Officer Don Deso was surprised by the number of sharks
and their size -- he said he spotted one that was 10 feet
long. The other thing that was unusual, Deso said, was that
several different kinds of sharks were swimming together. He
saw black-tip, nurse, spinner and hammerhead sharks.
Today, Deso and another deputy
will again fly a helicopter over Anclote Key to determine
whether the school of sharks still is swimming around.
Scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark
Research in Sarasota might come to the area to investigate
what is attracting the sharks.
Deso and other shark experts
speculate that the sharks are drawn to the area because they
are eating tiny fish that swim in the warm water.
Dr. Steve Branstetter, a fisheries
management specialist for the National Marine Fisheries
Service in St. Petersburg, said it is not uncommon for sharks
to "school up" near the gulf shores.
"A lot of times, sharks are
present and people don't even see them," he said.
From the air, as many as 40 sharks
could be seen swimming around the shallow water west of the
sand bar north of Anclote Key.
The sharks were spread out over
the length of the sand bar -- about a half of a mile. They
mostly congregated around long, narrow bands of seaweed and
By noon, the cluster of sharks was
starting to break up and head west, toward deeper, cooler
James Bellino, 29, of New Port
Richey didn't see any sharks as he and his four buddies spent
the day boating and drinking beer. Bellino had been swimming,
but quickly got out when another boater told him that the
waters were infested with sharks.
"I'm not gonna swim if
they're out there," said Bellino. "It's their