About 100 yards off the shoreline near Avalon State Park Beach was the unmistakable silhouette of a big shark. "It was in between the first and second reefs there and it was the biggest shark I have ever seen," said Smyth who was flying about 200 feet above the water that day. "It was much larger than the average shark I see, which is about 6 or 7 feet long. It was easily twice that. I thought it was about 20 feet long."
After video from Fort Pierce spear fishermen taken July 14 of a great white shark that could have been 15 feet long, Smyth wondered whether the shark he saw could have been the same one. He saw what he believes to be the same shark last year, too.
I thought readers of Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers would be interested in this encounter.
More than a dozen species of sharks are common in these waters, especially around our reefs, along our beaches and even inside the Indian River Lagoon. No one was threatened or harmed by this shark, and sharks are swimming nearby waters every day without incident.
This particular shark was swimming in an area that will have a fair number of lobster divers working Wednesday and Thursday for spiny lobsters. Some of those divers will enter the water from the beach, too.
To learn more about this shark, I sought the expert opinion of a shark researcher. I sent Smyth's photos to Steve Kajiura, the lead scientist at the Elasmobranch (sharks and rays) Laboratory at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Every two weeks for the past three years, Kajiura has flown between Boca Raton and Jupiter inlets performing aerial surveys of coastal sharks.
"My guess is that it is a bull shark based on the broadly rounded snout and broad pectoral fins," Kajiura wrote in an email. "It might also be a lemon shark, but I can't be sure. Coloration looks more like a bull shark. It is hard to determine scale without a frame of reference. Cool photos!"
We hope you think so as well.
ABOUT BULL AND LEMON SHARKS
Researcher Steve Kaijura said the shark in Buzz Smyth's photo is probably a bull or lemon shark.
According to the International Shark Attack File, bull sharks are implicated in the third most number of bites on humans. Lemon sharks are implicated in the 12th highest.
Bull sharks are very common on the Treasure Coast and actually use the Indian River Lagoon to give birth to their young each year. Juvenile bull sharks can live in the lagoon for the first five years of their lives, according to Grant Gilmore, scientist with Estuarine Coastal and Ocean Science in Vero Beach.
While Smyth speculated that the shark was 20 feet long, bull sharks rarely grow past 9 feet long and lemon sharks usually don't grow longer than 10.5 feet.