I caught a 200 pound LEMON SHARK!
Oh yes I did… and I reeled her in from about 500 yards from the beach.
I may have reeled it in but…. Okay, to be fair… my friend Elliot Sudal- aka – “The Shark Wrestler” did everything else.
Now don’t think because Elliot’s been named “The Shark Wrestler” and “The Shark Wrangler” by national press like National Geographic, CNN, Fox News and ABC News that catching this beast is “mean” or dangerous for the SHARK. He’s a SHARK conservationist.
Elliot is part of a research team that tags SHARKS for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Since 1962, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Cooperative Shark Tagging Program (CSTP) has been a tagging study for shark and ray species in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean to better understand their movement patterns, abundance, when/where they use coastal habitats, what distances they migrate and where they migrate to. Once he catches a SHARK, he tags, measures and records valuable information for NOAA’s scientific research then releases the SHARK back into the water all within just a few minutes.
Tagging SHARKS is an excellent way to study their habits to help ensure balance in the ocean’s ecosystem… so why not have fun doing it! Check out this Fox Connecticut video interview with Elliot having fun catching and tagging SHARKS … CLICK HERE
So what’s this got to do with shelling? Well, he might look a little familiar since he is one of the captains on our Captiva Cruises shelling trips to Cayo Costa- remember the Shellphone guy (CLICK HERE)? Yes, he’s a sheller too and laughs every time he finds a nice shell like the BANDED TULIP in his cast net.
Clark and I were shelling at Blind Pass Sanibel one evening and ran into Elliot setting up his reels for a night of SHARK fishing. Before I even got to reel in that awesome LEMON SHARK, Elliot had already done a lot of work to get the bait in place.
He wrangles bait fish like this SHEEPSHEAD by cast net.
He also throws a few smaller rods out to catch fish like this LADYFISH to put on a circle hook (the preferred hook for marine conservation) with gobs of heavy duty line…
Then he paddled his kayak out to the deeper water around 500 yards out while friend CJ Floyd watches the line.
So don’t worry! This line with the bait is nowhere near where we are shelling in the water. He paddles it waaaay out.
I’ve gotta tell ya, this is one of the most amazing things Ive ever experienced. Finding a JUNONIA is truly a spectacsheller moment but feeling the exhilaration of Mother Nature’s most incredible creatures tugging on the other end of this fishing pole was FINtastic! I caught a SPINNER SHARK too but that one got away. Just after Clark snapped this photo, that fella shook the hook.
But that’s ok because the next bite was my 7 foot LEMON SHARK. Can you believe it? And yes, in person you can see that there is a yellow tinge to her… hence the name “Lemon”. (Thats for you, Rachel… heehee xo)
Elliot tagged her…
Along with CJ, they measured and recorded her…
Then Elliot safely released her back into the water.
I got to fill out all of the valuable information to send off to NOAA … and I got to name her! Her new name?
Hahaha … and of course I had to see what she would look like with some JUNONIA spots on her- LOL
Okay y’all… I don’t want you to freak out about SHARKS being in the areas where we are looking for shells. First of all, most SHARKS Elliot catches are at dusk or later at night so most of us aren’t shelling off shore at those times. Secondly, the odds of you getting eaten by a SHARK are slim to none (and “Slim” just left town- as Clark would say). SHARKS are very smart creatures and humans aren’t what SHARKS want for dinner.
SHARKS have gotten such a bad reputation since the movie Jaws so I know that some people have a deep fear and/or concern for SHARKS so let me answer some of the questions you may have.
Yes- SHARKS live in the waters of Southwest Florida. We love to see all types of Sealife in the Gulf Of Mexico and we shouldn’t feel like it’s taboo to talk about SHARKS being there too. They are an important part of our healthy environment that we need to respect and protect.
Yes- It is safe to swim in the Gulf Of Mexico. Honestly, I was a little afraid to write this post because I didn’t want people afraid of the water. If you know the truth about SHARKS then you will respect them more without being afraid of the “unknowing”. Knowledge is power. So if you look at the statistics of only 9 SHARK fatalities in Florida from 1959-2010, hopefully you will still respect SHARKS but will understand the safe odds you have with SHARKS when you go for a dip in the water in Florida. As George Burgess, curator of the world shark attack data housed at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History says “beachgoers are far more likely to win the lottery than to (unintentionally) encounter a shark”. For more statistics – check out Florida Museum Of Natural History
And here are a few fun facts about SHARKS to sink your teeth into…
- Sharks have cruised the ocean for 400 million years.
- Sharks were on the planet 100 millions years before dinosaurs.
- Lemon sharks can lose a whole set of teeth, one by one, every 10 days.
- Lemon sharks like Jawnonia can give birth up to 17 pups in one litter.
- There are more than 450 species of sharks throughout the ocean
So now if you are on the beach looking for shells and you come across fishermen with kayaks and lots of poles, you can feel better about ducking around their fishing lines if they are out there tagging sharks for research conservation. Especially if you run in to Elliot- because he knows better than plopping his gear down right in the middle of the only big shell pile in miles (oh yes, I’ve seen that happen more than once with other fishermen- grrrrr). We all have our reasons we want to spend time on the beach so it’s fun for all of us to learn something new about the other creatures in the sea.
Thank you Elliot for teaching me so much about SHARKS and for letting me be part of such an amazing experience! You can follow Elliot @acksharks on Instagram or ElliotSudal on Facebook to see what SHARK adventures he is up to as he “Shark Wrestles” each winter on Sanibel and summers on Nantucket. And a special thanks to Rachel Fields for being so much fun and hanging out with us and taking photos of “my catch”. I’m usually the one behind the camera so thank you so much for sending those great photos to me!
OH WAIT! And…. Elliot is going to be on Nat Geo! He is starring in an upcoming television episode of a new reality show called The Raft airing every Sunday at 10pm eastern time (9pm central) from April 5 to May 3, 2015.
UPDATE: Elliot’s episode was awesome! It aired May 10 … and spoiler alert… he made it to land! This link won’t probably be live very long but you can see a preview here… http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-raft/videos/drifters-cant-be-choosers/
A couple of weeks ago we found quite a few SHARK’S TEETH during our Shellabaloo 2 shelling adventure on a full day Captiva Cruise trip to the north side of Cayo Costa.
These are just a few of the many FOSSILS we found…
After seeing so many different types of FOSSIL SHARK’S TEETH in just one area, I wanted to identify which type tooth was from what type of SHARK. Looking through my handy “Fossilized Shark’s Teeth & Fossils” book by Byron Fink, this is what I found….
The SAND SHARK and TIGER SHARK TEETH are quite different and a bit easier to identify…
The SNAGGLETOOTH SHARK is easier to identify if the serrated right edge isn’t worn to much…
The LEMON SHARK isn’t as easy to I.D. if the “gum” part isn’t as prominent as these…
I still have a hard time distinguishing the MAKO and BULL SHARKS because they look so much alike and remember, they have different teeth in the lower and upper jaws AND they look different in the Labial View as opposed to the Lingual View. The author in my little book described the LABIAL VIEW as … “The front of the shark tooth you see when the shark opens it’s lips to smile at you before swallowing you.” Then he gives us the meaning of the LINGUAL VIEW as … “The side of the shark tooth (rear) you would see if the shark just swallowed you and you were looking out of the mouth“. Oh dear! LOL
Some of these SHARKS TEETH can be up to 40 million years old when most of the state of Florida was under water. Yes, the Gulf Of Mexico has SHARKS… but not swarming off the shores of our beaches with black teeth waiting to get you so don’t worry. Live or “new” sharks teeth are whitish and most FOSSILS are black or dark brown. If you take the full day Captiva Cruise excursion to Cayo Costa State Park, don’t forget to look for FOSSILS!
I’ve been asked for some shelling reports for Sanibel and Captiva this week but the shelling hasn’t been as productive as last week because of strong east winds that have taken the shells back in the water. But! Even though we still have the east winds now, we have a really nice low tide in the evenings tonight and throughout the weekend so I think we could find some keepers on the sand bars before sunset this week. Kathy MT commented on the iLoveShelling Facebook page and said… “Found a whole sunrise tellin beauty, Kings Crown, murex, fighting conchs, small whelks, lots of colorful scallops ( my favorites are the bright orange ) and lots of coquinas at the Sanibel side of Blind Pass this morning“. Thanks Kathy MT! So maybe even in the mornings. So whichever beach you decide to go to, try to find the sand bars and also search in the shallow water. Good luck!
After you enjoy feeling the excitement of finding shells on the beach, you get to enjoy the excitement all over again when you show them to someone else that “gets” what you found and knows how you feel. That’s why our Shellabaloo 2 “Shell ‘N Tell” was one of my favorite days of the whole week during Shellabaloo. Do you see what Michele (Ohio) is holding in her hand in the first photo with her husband Bill? She found a JUNONIA! But that’s not it… she found what she calls “The Trifecta!”… A large HORSE CONCH and a large WHELK along with her JUNONIA. Do you think she was a happy girl or what! So happy for you Michele!
Here are some of her other finds (minus the JUNONIA since she was showing it to the others when I took this) …
For the week of Shellabaloo 2, I made up another Shellinger Hunt. The hunt is really meant to just have fun learning about different shells and not to overlook some of the common shells like JINGLES and KITTENS PAWS because…. well… because I think they are beautiful too! So you will see some of the displays with a dozen JINGLES in a COCKLE SHELL because that was point for the Shellinger Hunt. It wasn’t about who could find and take the most shells off the beach- it was all about enjoying the shells that were found… and some bigger points for finding things like The Sanibel Six or finding the rarer shells. It was so much fun to see these shellers find shells they’ve never found before and to rediscover the ones that can easily be overlooked.
On our last day, I asked everybody to bring their fave finds and/or their entries for the Shellinger Hunt at our home base at Island Inn so we could all see what everybody else was collecting. We set up tables for each person to display their shells and it turned out to be a mini Sanibel Shell Show!
Terri (NY) made a beee-uuuteeeful display of her favorite finds.
Lee and Susan (Cuba) narrowed down their favorite finds on a cooler tray for the Shellinger Hunt…
Of course I added a BEACH BLING category on the hunt ( i Love the BLING!) so it’s so funny they added a dried up fish tail that looks just like a MERMAID and a washed up fishing bobber as the faves in that category. LOL
Rick (Texas) brought a plate of his fave shells… the miniature shells. I just love how everybody organized their shells so creatively!
Rick’s wife Murfy showed her faves along with her favorite vintage shell book…
There is one shell in the middle of the others that is a little different. It looks like some sort of a TURITELLA… which I dont think is native to this area. I think it is either a FOSSIL shell that found it’s way to the gulf on a high tide from sidewalk fill or it was left over from a party or wedding after someone bought shells to decorate with. Hmmmm.
If there was a prize for being creative… Sharene and Tom (Ontario) would have won for creativity!
Rusty and Donna (Apopka, FL) narrowed down the favorites and of course it included an ALPHABET CONE and the SEA WHIP that had the ONE-TOOTH SIMNIAS I showed you in the first Shellabaloo 2 post.
Roger (MO) told me that his favorite shells were the minis he found at Lighthouse Beach. It was his first time finding WENTLETRAPS, RICE OLIVES and TUSKS so it was really fun to find something new.
Margie (AL) is so adorable! Her favorite shell was the PONDEROUS ARK because she loved the black PERIOSTICUM (the shell’s “skin”) on the white shell so that’s all she collected. She is going to make a black and white frame for a mirror when she gets home so I hope we get to see it!
Cutie Pie Becka needed her own table to make room for all of her newly found treasures.
Kendra (IN) had a sweet organized display of her favorites but also for the Shellinger Hunt.
She was so afraid she was going to lose her first TUSK SHELL so she wrapped half of a bandaid around it so she would know where it was (on the blue plate). LOL
Pat (Boca Raton, FL) had an amazing display of shells and BLING for the Shellinger Hunt.
While I was oooohing and aaaahing at all of her finds, she pointed out a piece of BEACH BLING that she wanted to know what it was. Whoa! Pat! You found the OPERCULUM to the SHARKS EYE! Clark just found our first ones just last month so I was absolutely thrilled for her that… A) she saw it and picked it up… and B) that she knew it was something special to show at the Shell And Tell. See why I love these shellers? Who else would think this thing on the beach was cool…
Speaking of awesome shellers, unfortunately, Gina couldn’t come to the Shell ‘N Tell but I still have to show you one of her exshellent finds… Gina found a yellow SEA WHIP. We find the purple ones a little more often but not the perfect yellow ones like hers. And no, I couldnt get her photo either because she was a little camera shy but Ha! I took a “long-arm shot” with me in it so we could get her picture and the SEA WHIP. LOL And yep, you guessed it! There were two ONE-TOOTH SIMNIAS on it!
I have found yellow SEA WHIPS before but never one with the yellow ONE-TOOTH SIMINAS on it. Yahoo! Gina did! Such a treasure!
Okay back to the Shell ‘N Tell with the rest of the awesomeness…. Here’s Cindy with her huge HORSE CONCH I showed you in my last post! Now you can see all of the other fabulous shells she found as well.
She also found a big ALPHABET CONE …which is part of 2 sets of The Sanibel Six for her Shellinger Hunt finds. She found a FLORIDA CONE to make her other set. And look at all of the SHARKS TEETH!
Okay… It’s time to announce the winner of the Shell And Tell and you won’t believe this prize! The winning sheller went home with a silver JINGLE SHELL necklace made by Sealife By Congress. It is beautiful! This new Sanibel jewelry store in Periwinkle Place Shopping Center is filled with seashells, SEAHORSES, DOLPHINS, STARFISH, SAND DOLLARS and every other sea life in gold, silver and with tasteful gemstones as well. I was thrilled they wanted to give our winner this perfect shell necklace.
After much laughter and ado, we narrowed the winners down to Michele (with her JUNONIA and HORSE CONCH) and Cindy with her HORSE CONCH based on their points score…
Before we announce the winner, Cindy and Michele clicked their CONCHS as if it was a toast. Cute and so much fun!
Drum Roll Please! …. wait for it…… The winner is Michele! Her JINGLE necklace is perfect for her! Congratshellations, my friend!
I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun both Shellabaloo 1 (in January) and this Shellabaloo 2 have been since it really brings amazing people together with not just shelling in common but we all seem to be like-minded in so many other ways. It’s quite a bonding experience, I must say. Thank you Island Inn for hosting such a great Shellapalooza. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know when the next one will be- no dates of been set yet for this 4 day Shellathon but as soon as we’ve come up with a plan, you will be the first to know.
But wait! I’m gathering a group of shellers for an afternoon of shelling at Cayo Costa next Sunday May 19 from 1-4pm on a Captiva Cruise. Join us! CLICK HERE for more info or call 239-472-5300 and ask to come along for the next iLoveShelling cruise!
Have you heard? The island of Cayo Costa has the best PANCAKES in the world! But save the butter and maple syrup because this is a PANCAKE SAND DOLLAR, baby.
It looks like a KEYHOLE SAND DOLLAR without the slits, right? Well wait until you see the side view because it really looks like a pancake with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
This is a really big find. Not only is it about 6 inches round but it is a very rare find here! It has one little crack on the top but other than that, it’s unbelievable.
I am so thrilled for Jan who found it on Cayo Costa last month. She said she was wading out at low tide to put a beautiful live horse conch back in the water and looked to her right in about knee deep water to see this beautiful find. I think it was Mother Nature’s way of saying “Thank you”. It was a first for her and honestly, this is the first one that I have seen too so I was thrilled to see it in person. Here’s Jan and her PANCAKE…
I met Jan last year at the Sanibel Shell Fair and as we were talking, Bill Geist and the CBS Sunday Morning Show crew started filming us. It’s a moment we will never forget so we became fast friends. Jan and her husband Bill are volunteers at the Cayo Costa State Park so Clark and I were invited to visit them on Sunday. They greeted us at the dock with a warm smiling welcome…
Just so you get your bearings straight, on Saturday’s iLoveShelling cruise to Cayo Costa, we were on the south tip of the island but on Sunday we were visiting Jan and Bill on the north side of Cayo Costa. Here are the four of us… Bill, Jan, Clark and me.
I’ve only been to this part of the island one other time which I blogged about it HERE. So we felt so lucky to be able to ride in a golf cart because unfortunately the golf carts are private… don’t rent them on the island. It really is a secluded place so that’s what makes visiting here so wonderful.
The first stop was to see their shell collection from the past couple of months. This is where she showed us the PANCAKE SAND DOLLAR but Jan also collects a few of her favorites or odds and ends. Look how big those SHARK’S EYES are.
This is the prettiest CANCELLATE SEMELE !
Look at this rich purple color on the inside…
I love that she likes to find the unusual shells like this damaged “FREAK” SOUTHERN QUAHOG (well that’s what the large white shell with the dent in the middle looks like to me). AND she found three MACULATED BABYS EARS. The brown ones are so hard to find!!!
I could have ohhhed and ahhhed over all of her shells since each one she collected has a little something different about it. But we moved on because they wanted to show us her shell identification board she finished making this month. Wow! It’s beautiful. We got so tickled because she chose just about the same shells to put on her shell board that I chose for my seashell identification card. (It was St Paddy’s day so I had on my green)
We met Resident Ranger Mary on her day off having fun. It was great to meet you Mary and thank you for everything!
On our way to the beach, we passed the small island cemetery with the plots lined with shells.
Then we hit the beautiful beach. This is on the north side of the island so behind Bill and Clark, you can see Boca Grande.
You know we were looking hard for a PANCAKE SAND DOLLAR but no such luck. It was high tide and she said she found it near the camp ground beach. But I was happy because I found a SHARK’S TOOTH…
We had a fantastic day exploring Cayo Costa State Park ! Thank you Jan and Bill for inviting Clark and me to hang out with you on your day off. It will be another special day to remember forever. And congratshellations again on your PANCAKE SAND DOLLAR! Way cool.
I couldn’t be happier to have another Shelling Sister that just moved to Sanibel! I feel like I’ve found my long lost Soul Sister… Susan. Of course she wanted to get the whole shelling experience on the Out Islands of Sanibel…. so before I knew it, she hired Capt. Brian Holaway for a shelling trip and she invited me to go along. Weehoo! First trip with Capt Brian!
We left the dock at 8 am but unfortunately the tide was too high to find good shells at that time so Capt Brian took us about an hour north to the beautiful town of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island to show Susan a few landmarks by golf cart.
We saw the Gasparilla Island Light…
We went to the Boca Grande Historical Society…
Brian’s friend Kim showed us fossils and artifacts on display at the sweet little museum…
We went to the Port Boca Grande Light…
Then we hit the beach!
Where we sifted for SHARK’S TEETH…
Susan found a few FOSSILS like SHARK’S TEETH, fragments of STINGRAY BARBS and BONES.
Along one of the beach paths we found a NICKERBEAN VINE with the prickly sea pods that host SEA BEANS which wash up on the beaches at times.
These local gray drift seeds are called SEA PEARLS. So… now we know where they come from!
I found a few WHITE MELAMPUS shells that were only 1/2 inch to 3/4…
But Susan found the grandpappy WHITE MELAMPUS weighing in at about 1 and 1/2 inches.
UPDATE 6-21-12 – Susan H commented on Soul Sister Susan’s WHITE MELAMPUS saying “it looks as if Susan found a World Record Size (WRS) one. I’m serious, the largest size listed on Malacolog is 27 mm, which is just about an inch“.
So I got serious and dug through drawers of Clark’s dad old tools he inherited and found some very cool old calipers. Susan brought her shell over and we measured….
Her WHITE MELAMPUS measured in at 30 mm. A World Record Size shell!! Thank you Susan H for giving us a heads up on this exciting news!
I found a bivalve shell (it has a small hole in the top but it’s still pretty) that I didn’t recognize so after looking through all of my books… it looks like it’s a JUVENILE SOUTHERN QUAHOG. It has thin raised ridges that seem too delicate to be called a QUAHOG but I’m sure that’s what it is.
When we got back to the dock at McCarthy’s Marina, the MANATEES were waiting for us!
We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day so thank you sooo much Soul Sister Susan for letting me tag along and to Captain Brian for guiding our gorgeous day.
PS- Just if you are wondering…. Yes! Super Sheller Clark helped Soul Sister Susan and her beautiful family find their island home in paradise. (I know, shameless plug …but hey, do you blame me?)
I’m not sure if I’ve ever found a fossil SHARKS TOOTH at Bind Pass before….But my fossil-hunting buddy Susan (Sanibel) found one there! I think she can pluck out a fossil on any beach!
This was a pretty nice size TIGER SHARK TOOTH she found in the wrack line on the Sanibel side. Can you make out the serrated edge on the tooth on the pointed side?
Louise ad Debra (Maine) found lots of shell treasures including a really nice ALPHABET CONE…
Another Shelling Sista Susan and her husband Gary (Maryland) found two big LIGHTNING WHELKS out on the sand bar.
Congrats! These babies will clean right up with sharp pick and a little bleach.
My fave find of the day was this sweet little baby KING’S CROWN…
Oh wait! I take that back. This would be my favorite….We saw a SEA HARE at Blind Pass! It was a SEA HARE raising experience. heehee
I made a video for my post See A Sea Hare (check it out- you can see pictures of the ink squirting out) a while back but I wanted to show it to you again just in case you missed it. Enjoy this funny little creature…