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Now browsing: Hometown News > Fishing > Dan Smith

Dan Smith
This Week | Archive

Critters out of their element in the local inshore
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Posted: 2014 Aug 08 - 08:54

I don't know if you caught it on the tube, but a six-foot alligator recently took a swim in the surf near my home in Ormond-by-the-Sea.

That made the news because it is an extremely rare happening these days. Back when I first arrived on these shores, that was a common occurrence. Years ago, gators, bears and bobcats came to the beach to eat the turtle eggs. I suppose this gator took a stroll from the river to the beach up near High Bridge. Not many city alligators these days. In the 1960s almost every water hazard on any golf course featured a resident gator.

I got a kick out of the effort to catch the small bull shark in a Brevard County retention pond. Four or five wildlife officers and a professional trapper spent days there. Gosh, you would think the thing was "Jaws." I imagine they were quite embarrassed when the shark turned out to be three feet long. A fish like that would not harm you unless you put your fingers in its mouth.

It's just a fact of nature that every now and then wild animals become displaced and appear out of their element. Several years ago my wife, Lana, and I spotted an actual killer whale along the beach near our house. It was high tide and lots of people were swimming on an August day. Although we shouted for them to get out of the water, they ignored us. Luckily no one was harmed, but that could have turned deadly.

When I helped the late Al Houser catch a giant barracuda near the Port Orange bridge, I was amazed to find such a creature in the Halifax River. I have dived the reefs of the Florida Keys for years and had never encountered a 'cuda so large. Once my young son caught a big black grouper in Strickland Creek within the city limits of Ormond Beach. Not the usual catch there. In the 1980s, a scientific study was done in that same creek and the results showed many more sharks than most would have believed to be living in that very fresh water.

Years ago, the big offshore sharks would often come into the inshore, but, of course, the water quality was much better back then. I remember a big hammerhead being caught near City Island. We have a good population of bonnet head sharks in our rivers now. Those are the first cousin of the dangerous hammerhead, but are small and not usually a danger to people.

Last year, my daughter Shayla and her friends saw a whale shark swimming in the boat channel at Ponce Inlet. Was it leaving the inshore? A week later, one was caught by the TV cameras in Titusville -- probably the same one. Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, but harmless to humans.

A while back a sea lion showed up on the rocks at the inlet to make for some pretty good photo ops. Certainly out of its element.

This summer while the water is warm always be aware of your surroundings. You never know what you may see. When releasing fish, be careful not to keep your hands in the water too long. The small fish you turn back may attract large predators. It's always great fun to see a critter out of its element, unless your fingers are involved.

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.

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