Shark Tagging with National Geographic’s Monster Fish

by Becca Shelton, RJD intern
Thursday, June 21

I have been dreaming of going shark tagging for as long as I can remember and last Thursday morning, I was headed down to Islamorada to join the RJD team for a day in Everglades National Park. Besides being a first timer and the chance to research sharks, there were other reasons to be excited for this trip. First, the boat trip was being sponsored by National Geographic for their show Monster Fish with Zeb Hogan. They bought a satellite tag and they wanted a nice, big bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), to wear it. After meeting up with Dr. Hammerschlag, the RJD team, the Monster Fish crew and Captain Curt, we loaded up the R/V Endsley and headed out to Middle Grounds in hopes of finding the film crew their shark.

RJD director Dr. Neil Hammerschlag and Monster Fish host Zeb Hogan work up a blacktip shark

After introductions, we prepared the drum lines and bait for deployment. Then we waited an hour to see if we got a bite. Our first shark of the day was a beautiful blacktip and the excitement was phenomenal. After the samples were collected and the shark was safely released, I was hooked. It is hard to describe your first experience with a wild caught shark. And the fun did not stop there!  Throughout the day we caught another blacktip, three nurses, and one lemon shark. Zeb was having a great time and was eager to help in helping to secure the sharks and participate in the sampling. However, the episode was about bull sharks and everyone was still holding out hope that we would catch one.
We were literally down to the last line and as we were reeling it in, someone thought we had caught another blacktip. As it flashed its white abdomen, it was clear that we had a bull shark. The camera crew was on the scene in milliseconds and everyone got ready for the big moment. Everything went off without a hitch and Monster Fish got its shot with a truly magnificent predator. Dr. Hammerschlag applied the new “Hammer” satellite tag that is solar powered and will be able to transmit various types of data over the next couple of years.  As the shark swam away with its newest accessory, there was a feeling of relief and accomplishment.  Whether it was intuition, knowledge, luck or all three, the day could not have ended any better for National Geographic or RJD.

RJD Interns Stacy and Evan help hold down a female bull shark on Thursday, June 21 while National Geographic filmakers document the tag and release.

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