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» »Unlabelled » Ga. Creeks Getting More Shark Visits

Noel Todd and Leon Howard weren't expecting to reel in a massive beast when fishing near Shell Creek in McIntosh County.But that is precisely what they got when tossing out lines from a boat slip at Ocean Bounty Seafood.Pulling in a 368-pound, 8 foot-5-inch long bull shark, the two were shocked and nervous."It was caught around where a bunch of little kids were swimming," Todd said. "We are thinking that it was following the shrimp boats in that they were dumping the trash fish off the decks of the boats, and had made the small creek his home."Most likely, that was exactly the case -- the shark was following the trail of dumped fish, not hunting small children, said Carolyn Belcher, shark expert with the Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources in Brunswick.While she had not heard of Todd and Howard's catch last week, Belcher hears stories of both small and large sharks being landed in creeks quite frequently.She said the waterways are conducive environments for supplying ample feeding opportunities and providing protective habitats."We're aware that there are sharks out there. This is more common that most people would think," Belcher said. "Usually, the sharks follow the fish in. And since smaller sharks have been displaced lately because of changing salinity in creeks, the larger sharks are moving in."Fishermen who land a shark in a waterway can keep it as long as it is not on the protected list, Belcher said. According to state regulations, anglers have a daily bag limit of one shark larger than 84 inches."It's really a matter of personal preference what you do with a shark if you catch it," she said. "A lot of people tag and release, some take a picture and release, and others take it home and eat it. As long as it is not on the protected list, you should be good to go."Sandbar sharks are the most common local fish caught that must be released, she said.Of course, sometimes even non-native sharks make their way to area waters. Recently, a fisherman caught a leopard shark off the south end of Jekyll Island. Leopard sharks normally are found in the cooler waters off the Pacific coast, but here was one thriving in the Golden Isles."We think that it had been in an aquarium and was getting too big for the owner," Belcher said. "Likely, they released it and it seemed to be doing fine."The man let it go, so the leopard shark is still out there somewhere." SOURCE

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