This week I met with producers of the Travel Channel who were in the area to tape a show on shark bites.
They had contacted me a while back and asked if I would assist in the catching of a shark. I agreed, but have to tell you I entered into that deal with a bit of apprehension.
The Travel Channel guy told me upfront the piece would be dealing with our reputation as the shark bite capital of the world. My concern was how they intended to portray us. "Us" meaning New Smyrna Beach where they were focusing.
I have always been quick to have a little fun with the shark bite record that keeps Volusia County at the top of the pack annually. Just recently in a column I did on water safety, I suggested that in order to escape a shark bite, you needed only to be able to swim faster than the slowest person with you. At other times, I have snickered at the beachside bars that have signs reading "Come on in, have a drink and watch the sharks eat the tourists."
I always believe we should lighten up and have a little fun with the shark bite capital moniker. That would not be possible unless the bites were only in the minor category. No one
would want to make light of serious injury or death.
So my concerns with the Travel Channel were about how they would portray New Smyrna Beach. I would never lend my name to a hatchet job where a TV show makes our beach out to be the most dangerous one on the planet. In order for me to help I wanted to be sure the information dispensed would be truthful. Of course, going in I knew there would be video of thousands of sharks lurking just off the beach. I believe that shark migration took place much farther south, but I realize TV loves that stock footage. I also know they would make it appear all those sharks were waiting for an errant swimmer instead of taking part in a mating ritual that it really is.
I was a bit torn. Another problem was with the actual catching of a shark. I was
supposed to accomplish that in a few hours of fishing. Even if I was
successful, I would never be part of killing an animal for a TV program.
If the Travel Channel guys would not agree to handle the caught shark gently, I couldn't do it. Anything we catch had to be released unharmed. I know they will be wanting to take lots of footage of a captured shark, but I wouldn't keep it out of the water longer than is safe for the animal.
So there you have my dilemma. Of course, I am flattered a big time TV channel would ask for my assistance, but there has to be conditions. At this writing, this adventure has yet to take place. My time with the guys from TV would happen after my deadline so the story won't make the paper for a while.
I will surely let you know how it turns out, but I can tell you now if I have an inkling that the program will be going for sensationalism or if they plan on killing a shark you won't be seeing me on the tube.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.