“It’s one of the biggest bull sharks I’ve ever caught, and it’s the biggest bull shark I’ve ever tagged,” University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag said of the massive bull shark he landed while fishing for specimens off the Florida Keys. The shark was about 10 feet long and estimated to weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
“It’s a lot of work to bring up a line, but I can usually do it myself,” he says, noting that he has landed upward of 1,000 sharks. “We didn’t know if we were pulling up a sunken boat, a monster shark, a school bus — we had no idea which it was,” Hammerschlag said.
This particular shark was a female. Like many other shark species, female bull sharks are larger than males. Bull sharks “have the most testosterone of any animal on the planet, so that should tell you a little something,” Hammerschlag said regarding the relative aggression of the species. They also like to hang out in shallow, coastal waters. They were in about 150 feet of water when they captured this monster.
A research assistant professor at the University of Miami, and the director of its R. J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, Hammerschlag spends every other weekend in southern Florida dragging baited, shark-safe lines behind a boat, hoping one of his research subjects will take a bite.
When he and his team catch one, they outfit the shark with a satellite tag and take tiny samples of muscle and fin and a vial’s worth of blood, then send the shark on its way. The whole process takes about five minutes.