Florida, predictably, did not have a white Christmas. But one part of the coast did have a great white holiday.
The Canaveral Princess, a party fishing vessel operating out of Port Canaveral, had an encounter three days after Christmas with a 12-footer, which gulped one angler’s hooked mangrove snapper before slowly swimming off.
It was the second great white the boat spotted in a little over a week, according to a story by Ed Killer, outdoors columnist for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com. On Dec. 19, Killer reported, Capt. Craig Shaffer briefly hooked an estimated 14-footer before it broke off on gear intended for much smaller fish.
J.P. Prouty of Satellite Beach, who posted photos and video of the latest sighting on his Facebook page, told Killer, “It was the second time I’ve seen a great white, and this one was incredible. I watched the shark swim directly under the boat’s pulpit, which is where I was standing. He swam back and forth several times basically right under my feet.”
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Great whites aren’t common in Florida waters but they do show up sporadically, usually in the winter months when offshore waters cool.
The species was made famous — or rather, infamous — by the hit movie Jaws, which was inspired by Peter Benchley’s 1974 best-seller. While the ocean-going sharks, which can reach up to 20 feet, can be dangerous, they’re also important apex predators and the public attitude toward them has changed over the last few decades. With fishing pressure reducing the global population of great whites, they’re now a protected species in many places, including in Florida, where it is illegal to catch and keep one.
Many anglers no longer view them as monsters to kill but as an awesome sight to remember.
“It makes you realize that on land, (humans) are the king,” Prouty told Killer. “But once you dip one toe in that ocean, you’re in Jurassic Park. There are so many things in it that are so much bigger than you are, and they will eat you.”