Dave Kampo didn’t catch any fish when he went out on his 35-foot Rampage Jan. 14, but that doesn’t mean he came back to the dock without a catch.
The Marathon resident was shocked when he found a tiger shark mangled between the pod and the propeller of one of his 370 horsepower Bravo diesel engines.
“When I lifted the boat out of the water, there was a tiger shark hanging there,” Kampo said. “It was impaled on the engine and quite dead.”
Kampo was out morning fishing for ballyhoo for bait with Capt. Willy O’Connell on the reef between Bahia Honda and the Seven Mile Bridge when the boat, Stormy, hit something big. The Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and seasonal Marathon resident suspected they might have hit a shark but didn’t see it.
“It was quite a bang. We thought we had hit a shark because of the blood in the water but we had no idea,” Kampo said. “We were going about 25 knots when we hit this thing. It damaged the engine and we limped back home on one engine.”
Once they got back to the dock at Coco Plum in Marathon, they lifted the engine, and there was the shark. O’Connell estimates it was at least 350 pounds.
Kampo has been coming to the Florida Keys for 35 years and said this is the first time he’s seen a shark entangled in a propeller. He stays in the Keys from December to April.
“It did extensive damage to the engine,” said Kampo, who purchased the boat last year. “We didn’t see it before we hit it. We would have certainly done everything to avoid him if we could.”
Kampo said although there was blood in the water, he wasn’t followed by any other sharks or fish.
According to National Geographic, tiger sharks are “consummate scavengers, with excellent senses of sight and smell and a nearly limitless menu of diet items.” They’re found in tropical and subtropical waters. They can grow to be as long as 25 feet and weigh more than 1,900 pounds.
Shark population levels have been improving. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captured and tagged 2,835 sharks last year compared to 1,831 in 2012.