OCEAN ISLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — For the past four or five years, members of a local fishing team have been helping scientists track sharks off our coast. They say sometimes people get the wrong idea about what it is that they do, and they want to clear that up.
“People think if you’re shark fishing, because of the movie Jaws, that we’re just out there dumping 55 gallons drums of blood in the water,” said Will Starr, founding member of Team Hitman Shark Fishing. “And it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The team isn’t fishing for food. Instead, they fit each shark with a tag and re-release them back into the ocean.
“Pretty quick after we started shark fishing, we wanted to see if there was a way that we could get more involved in the preservation of the sharks,” Starr said. “So we got involved in the tagging process.”
The Cooperative Shark Tagging Program is run by a division of NOAA. According to their website, the program has been around since 1962.
“It comes in on a postcard, you just fill out your location, whether it was a male or female, the species, the size, all that good stuff. The condition of the fish, notice if it has any injuries,” said founding member A.J. Woodard.
The data helps scientists track migration patterns, age and growth, and more. Woodard and Starr say safety is their top priority.
“We strive to have the fish back in the water in less than three minutes but sometimes it’ll balance out to four minutes or five minutes,” Starr said. “We really do emphasize, we’ve missed pictures on some of the bigger sharks that we’ve caught, just so we could get the fish back in the water.
They say there are a variety of sharks off our coast, including hammerheads, bulls, lemons, makos, and of course tiger sharks, like the nine footer they caught the other day.
“My wife actually caught it, and she said it was a pretty good fight. It took her a little over 20 minutes to get it in,” Woodard said.
“That’s the biggest shark we’ve caught on our team, so it’s become kind of a running joke that she came out and showed the boys up,” Starr said.
While anyone with a fishing license can sign up for the NOAA tagging program, Woodard and Starr stress that without the proper equipment, it can be dangerous for both you and the shark.