Watermen catch two 8-footers on same day

Friday, Sept. 3, 2010

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Staff photo by REID SILVERMAN
Willy Dean of Scotland caught an 8-foot-long bull shark in a pound net in Cornfield Harbor near Point Lookout on Wednesday. It's being stored in a walk-in freezer until he figures out what to do with it.

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Submitted photo
Waterman Tommy Crowder caught the second bull shark of the day Wednesday in the Potomac River.

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Staff photo by REID SILVERMAN
This bull shark was caught in Cornfield Harbor on Wednesday. A captured shark in the area is rare.

A bull shark was caught on Wednesday morning in Cornfield Harbor near Point Lookout. That's rare for this area. Then another one was caught that afternoon in the Potomac River.

Waterman Willy Dean was only looking for rays Wednesday morning. What he got was an 8-foot male bull shark in his net.

The second was captured hours later farther up the Potomac River.

"I caught that shark yesterday afternoon off Tall Timbers. Two sharks in one day," said waterman Tommy Crowder on Thursday. "Two is like unheard of."

Dean and Crowder are pound-net fishermen; a pound net is a long underwater enclosure that traps fish in a large net. The net is then hauled up to the surface and the fish are brought on board.

Dean had two people from the Calvert Marine Museum with him Wednesday morning. "They needed some cownose rays for their exhibit," Dean said.

In Cornfield Harbor, on the Potomac River side of Point Lookout, they started pulling up the pound net and saw a shark swimming inside of it.

"It was an experience and he was" angry, Dean said.

Dean said he has been fishing for more than 30 years and has never caught a shark of any kind before.

To get it out of the net they threw a rope around its tail fin and eventually another around its head and hauled it aboard the 22-foot boat. The pound net was in 18 feet of water.

Once the bull shark was out of the water it began to suffocate and soon after died.

"He was king for a little while" on board, Dean said.

"The dog on board, she was loving the whole thing," said Ken Kaumeyer, curator of exhibits at the Calvert Marine Museum.

At 8 feet long, Dean estimated the shark weighed between 300 and 350 pounds.

"Between the snakeheads and this, no more skinny dipping for me," he said.

Dean looked into getting the shark stuffed but because it has no scales, it can't be done.

He said Wednesday he'll either sell it to a seafood vendor or his family will eat it. It's being stored in a walk-in freezer in his home at Scotland.

Crowder's bull shark was 8 feet, 3 inches, and he estimated it weighed 500 to 600 pounds. "He was a big boy," he said.

"He ended up drowning in the net," he said, and after pictures were taken those onboard "cut his belly open and threw him overboard" so it wouldn't float.

"We had a sturgeon this spring and he was about 6 foot long. That net's had a real good year," Crowder said.

Sharks are not uncommon in area waters, but bull sharks are rare. "That doesn't happen too often," Kaumeyer said.

"I've been wandering around the bay for 40 years and that's the first one I've ever seen," he said. "They're not seen in the bay very often."

The bull shark is the most aggressive shark in the world's oceans. It has the most testosterone of any animal and can also live in fresh water. The bull shark is blamed for attacks on humans and deaths in New Jersey in July 1916, when little was known about sharks in general.

Robert T. Brown, an Avenue waterman, said he caught a 7-foot, 6-inch dusky shark in the Potomac River just south of Breton Bay in June 1991.

"They come in and out all the time in the river here," Brown said, saying that sharks' teeth are prevalent on local beaches.

On Aug. 23, 1973, some fisherman accidentally caught five bull sharks and dragged three of them to shore out of the Patuxent River at the Esperanza Farms neighborhood. They were not as large as the ones Dean and Crowder caught.

Jesse Yeatman contributed to this report.