No fish story: Viral video captures nurse shark that just won’t let go

It’s no fish story: A nurse shark that bit a Clay County man on his stomach and refused to let go was caught on camera.

The video was recorded on Labor Day weekend in the Gulf of Mexico, off the island of Marathon in the Florida Keys. But warning, the video is graphic and not for the squeamish.

Ervin McCarty, from Green Cove Springs, just posted the video on social media, and it’s already gone viral.

McCarty shared his remarkable story with News4Jax on Wednesday. He said it was quite the struggle — no matter what, the shark would not let go. The shark stayed on his stomach for about 30 minutes and it even tried to pull him under water.

“Hold him still! Hold him still! Lay down,” a woman can be heard saying in the background of the video. “Come on! Stab him or something.”

The video recorded on a fishing boat a few miles off the coast of Marathon shows a 2-3 foot nursing shark latched onto Ervin’s stomach.

“Get the damn thing off of me!” Ervin exclaims.

Ervin had been lobstering and spearfishing with family friends. He dove down about 12 feet to get a grouper they had speared.

“I turned to go back up for air and something hit me in the stomach,” Ervin recounted. “I didn’t know if somebody kicked me or what, but whatever hit me was biting on to me.”

He surfaced far away from the boat, and there was a strong current. All the while, he couldn’t shake the shark off.

“I had to grab it by both hands, keep it from shaking, and get up for air at the same time,” he said.

At one point, the shark tried to pull him underwater.

I thought I was drowning,” Ervin said.

After about a 20-minute struggle, Ervin was able to get on the boat.

“I was out of breath. It was wearing me out. Took everything I had to keep it from shaking,” he said.

A friend stabbed the shark to get it off. It was their only option.

“I’m bleeding (the shark) out,” the friend says in the video. “You just gonna have to lay there for a minute and let him bleed out.”

It took about six more minutes after that until the shark released. At that point, Ervin can be heard screaming in pain.

But then, the shark bit him a second time in another part of his stomach. That time, the shark released its bite a little easier.

“Poor little guy,” the friend said.

Ervin later got a checkup and a tetanus shot. But will he get back in the water?

“It hasn’t changed a thing. I will continue to fish,” Ervin told News4Jax. “I will continue to snorkel — just make sure there is not a nurse shark around!”

Now he’s got a scar and quite the fish story — but at least this one has video to prove it.

University of North Florida shark researcher Dr. Jim Gelsleichter said while nurse sharks are generally gentle, they will bite if they’re provoked or they think you are food. He said the grouper could have triggered the attack.

But why didn’t the shark let go? Gelsleichter said nurse sharks are very strong and have a tight grip because they’re bottom feeders. But their teeth aren’t very long, so the bites are typically less severe than those of other sharks.

In Florida, Gelsleichter said, there have only been about seven documented nurse shark bites in the last century.

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