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As of late, with the re-introduction of Discovery Channels ‘Shark Week’ and old reruns of ‘Jaws’, a larger part of the population has adopted big-game fishing as a weekend activity, focusing mainly on sharks. Sharks have become a favorite target, especially here in southwest Florida, as the waters start to chill, bringing with them the "Bulls of the Deep". As of two years ago an old visitor decided to return to an old haunt; a Venice Beach tiger shark. Their fearsome and thrashing style of culinary activities incites anglers to prove themselves against this ancient man-eater of the deep. Though many a shark hunter angling on the boards of the Venice Florida City Pier have not a clue, when one looks at their equipment that they are using. The number one question on the pier is “did you catch that here?” as they continue to bait up with a large style hook and oversized bait on a piece of equipment manufactured for freshwater to light saltwater usage.

Venice Pier tiger shark

I blame the booming shark sport industry in their televised tournaments and contests, of bringing to the dock many blue's, mako's, tiger's and bull sharks ready to be “steak cut” or filleted for a weekend barbeque. Yet, most are discarded into the trash or dumped over the side after the weigh in or picture, which is the worst of travesties! Of all the sharks found in the Gulf of Mexico the mako and blacktip sharks are of the best to eat and the rest should be CPR’ed (Catch, Photographed and Released). As of recent, new shark regulations are out to protect most of these fierce looking, yet gentle creatures of the night. A few are allowed to keep in Florida waters if over 54 inches in size, if not, let them go. I am in favor of tournaments but only those that catch & release! As for the keeping of a blacktip of any size, that is OK. I would prefer a slot limit. Blacktips are more numerous -- according to Florida Wildlife Commission stats -- and that is the reason they allow us to keep any size. They are extremely tasty, if field dressed right away. If allowed to expire before cleaning, the meat is still good but tastes bitter due to the fact a shark does not have a bladder. It urinates through its skin, just like you and I sweat. If it is not cleaned immediately, the urine bleeds back into the meat.

Venice Pier tiger shark

There are of fourteen varieties of sharks caught from the boards of the Venice City Pier at Sharky’s in Venice Florida, but the most common are our blacktips, hammerheads, lemon, reef, nurse and the verbose bull sharks. Big bulls have always been the talk of the pier throughout the year with hammerheads arriving on the tails of the migrating schools of kings and tarpon. A big hammer is a sight to see and always becomes the thrill to seek up until the water temperature drops below 70 degrees, to which it starts it migration back offshore and south to warmer waters.

In my 15 years of angling the pier, a tiger shark has not been caught! Jesus -- a friend of mine -- is an avid sharker, as I used to be. While overnight angling with large sharking equipment he floated out a wingtip cut off of a stingray around four-hundred yards off the “T” in hopes of a big shark. The stingray wing used for bait -- weighing in at about ten pounds -- was attached to three 14/0 circle hooks, 50 pound test Diamond line, with a large conventional reel on a stiff offshore rod. The bait was floated out on an Aqua-tech snap float and the setup put in free-spool with the clicker on.

After waiting an hour or two the sound of the clicker on the free-spooled reel screamed out in agony against the silent star studded night. Dropping the reel into locked position, with a constituent slow retrieve while raising the rod upwards to the sky, “FISH ON!” was the scream from I, as Jesus was in the battle with a really big foe! After about an hour of to and fro, this eight to nine foot man-eater, was gaffed in its tail and on the boards it was to be; a tiger shark none the less!

The tiger was given this eloquent title of man eater during the final days of WW II when the USS Indianapolis CA-35 was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea, and of 1,196 men on board only 316 men survived with the perils of the sea and the verboseness of the tiger, who ate most of them alive!

Venice Pier Tiger shark

Venice, Florida is known as the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World" because of all the prehistoric sharks that once roamed the area of this closed sea. The most prevalent teeth found on the beaches of Venice are that of the tiger shark. Those fat thin and wiggly (jagged below the point) black sharks’ teeth you find at waters edge, on the beach of Venice, were that of tiger sharks a few million years ago. I wonder what has changed to bring them back. As I said earlier, for whatever the reason, after a trip of just over a million years, the Venice Beach tiger shark has returned.


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