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Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Garrison Safety Office
Fort Novosel, Alabama

I love to fish, especially for inshore saltwater species. However, being an active-duty Soldier creates geographic challenges that limit my fishing opportunities to just a few days each year — if I’m lucky. Fortunately, an abundance of angling videos allows me to fish vicariously through those who post their catches on the internet or social media.

While scrolling through some of these posts a few months ago, I came across an article on Field and Stream’s website titled, “Watch: Shark Attacks and Pulls Angler Overboard in Florida Everglades,” by associate news editor Travis Hall. The article contained an embedded link to a video posted on Instagram. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as a guy caught a fish and released it. He then dipped his hands into the water to rinse them, which proved to be a bad idea.

As the angler leaned into the water, a large bull shark breached the surface, grabbed ahold of his right hand and pulled him overboard. Luckily, the man was able to quickly climb back into the boat. According to the post, he was rushed back to the dock and airlifted to a hospital for treatment.

The video’s caption warns anglers of the dangers of sharks in Everglades National Park and urges them to keep their hands and feet in their vessel at all times. Just before the unprovoked attack, the man filming the video told the unlucky angler to not stick his hands in the water, as sharks had been stealing some of their catch that day.

As I watched the video over and over, I couldn’t help but think about how many times I’d washed off my hands in waters very similar to where this incident took place. I immediately began thinking about the ways this incident could have been prevented and was determined to learn from this man’s experience.

Lessons learned

So, what can we learn from this incident? I believe that by applying the five steps of the risk management process, this shark bite could have been avoided. 1. Identify the hazards in your operating environment. Is there anything in the water that can hurt you? 2. Assess the hazards associated with your activity. Pay attention to warnings, experts and others familiar with the area you are fishing so you can determine the hazard risk and severity. 3. Develop controls and make risk decisions that can help mitigate any hazards. If sharks are present, plan to stay out of the water. 4. Implement the controls you develop. If you need to clean your hands after releasing a fish, find another way other than sticking them in the water, such as using bottled water to rinse them. 5. Supervise and evaluate your plan. Pay attention to what you and others are doing, ensure you adhere to the controls and evaluate how well your mitigation strategies worked.

With a little risk management and hazard analysis, next time you’re fishing in dangerous waters, you’ll be able to keep your hands to yourself.


Did You Know?

Bull sharks, unlike most sharks, can survive in freshwater for long periods of time. In fact, a group of bull sharks reportedly lived in a golf course pond in Australia for nearly 20 years. In the U.S., they typically prefer the coastal waters off the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, which allows them to come into contact with humans. However, like the shark in the article above, they have been spotted in the Florida Everglades as well as the Mississippi River. Male bull sharks grow to about 7 feet, while females reach about 11 feet. Adults usually weigh between 200-500 pounds. Because of their aggressive nature, bull sharks are often considered to be the most dangerous shark to humans.

Source: National Wildlife Foundation


  • 26 May 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 342
  • Comments: 0