Friday, September 25, 2020

I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat!

Quick photo before a safe release on Capt. Rapps’ boat. Submitted photo

Quick photo before a safe release on Capt. Rapps’ boat. Submitted photo

By Capt. Pete Rapps

Well, maybe not here in Southwest Florida. There are no Great White Sharks threatening us like Jaws did in the 1975 film in the fictional New England town of Amity Island.

Our summer water temperatures bring many types of Shark into the shallow waters of the 10,000 Islands. They are here to breed, and arrive in good numbers. Although there are Shark here year round, It is now that they are most abundant. Because of this, it is now through October that I offer catch and release “Shark Exclusive Charters.” Below is a list of the 5 most common Shark in our waters that one is most likely to catch. I have included some pretty interesting profile info obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (myFWC.com) about their habitat, feeding, reproduction, and their sizes.

BLACKTIP SHARK Carcharhinus limbatusHabitat: Common in Florida’s coastal waters, bays and estuaries. A very active, fast-swimming shark often seen at the surface. Often forms large schools during annual migration times. Migrates southward and into deeper coastal waters during winter months. May leap out of the water and, like the related spinner shark, spin around several times before dropping back into the sea. Feeding: Feeds primarily on fishes but also eats small sharks, some rays and skates, squid, crabs, octopus, and lobster. Reproduction: Gives birth to live young. Litters contain 1-10 pups. Females swim into shallow bays in spring and early summer to give birth. Size at birth 22-28 inches. Size/Age: Maximum length about 6 feet. Matures at approximately 6-7 years of age(about 5 feet) and is estimated to live 10 + years.

BONNETHEAD SHARK Sphyrna tiburo. Habitat: Abundant in nearshore Florida waters. Commonly seen over shallow sand and mud flats. Moves into deeper, coastal waters during the colder months. Feeding: Feeds primarily on crabs, shrimp, mollusks, and small fishes. Reproduction: Gives birth to live young. Litters contain 4-16 pups. Size at birth about 12 inches. Size/Age: Smallest member of the hammerhead family. Maximum length about 3.5 feet. Matures at approximately 2 years of age (about 30 inches) and is estimated to live 7+ years.

BULL SHARK Carcharhinus leucas. Habitat: Common apex predator that inhabits estuarine, nearshore and offshore waters of both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. Commonly enters estuarine waters and is one of the few shark species that may inhabit freshwater, sometimes venturing hundreds of miles inland via coastal river systems. Feeding: Versatile and opportunistic feeder. Stomach contents have included a variety of bony fishes and invertebrate species, sharks, rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and sea birds. Reproduction: Gives birth to live young. Litters contain 1-13 pups. Size at birth about 2.4 feet. Utilizes shallow bays and coastal lagoons as nursery areas. Size/Age: Maximum size about 11 feet. Matures at approximately 14-18 years of age (about 6.5 feet) and is estimated to live 24+ years.

LEMON SHARK Negaprion brevirostris. Habitat: An abundant, inshore tropical shark that inhabits both estuarine and nearshore waters of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. Commonly enters estuarine waters and often ventures into freshwater areas, but does not penetrate as far up rivers as the Bull shark. Migrates southward and into deeper waters in the winter months. Feeding: Feeds on a variety of bony fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, rays, small sharks, and occasionally on sea birds. Reproduction: Gives birth to live young. Litters contain 4-17 pups. Size at birth about 2 feet. Utilizes shallow bays and coastal lagoons as nursery areas. Size/Age: Maximum size about 10.5 feet. Matures at approximately 11-12 years of age (about 8 feet) and is estimated to live 27+ years.

NURSE SHARK Ginglymostoma cirratum. Habitat: An abundant, coastal, tropical and subtropical shark that inhabits nearshore waters of both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. Often seen lying motionless on the bottom. Preferred habitats are coral reefs, rocks, and mangrove islands. Feeding: Feeds mainly on bottom invertebrates such as spiny lobsters, shrimps, crabs, sea urchins, squid, octopi, and marine molluscs; also feeds on some fish species, especially grunts. Reproduction: Gives birth to live young. Litters contain 20-50 pups. Size at birth about 1 foot. Mating aggregations reported in Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, often in very shallow water. Juveniles utilize shallow coral reefs, rocky areas, grass flats, and mangrove islands as nursery habitat. Size/Age: Maximum size about 9 feet. Matures at approximately 7 feet and is estimated to live 24+ years.

Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from men, women, & children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Pete is extremely patient and loves to teach. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See his online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at www.CaptainRapps.com or call 239-571-1756.

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