Sushi the shark caught in South Florida pond
Updated On: Jun 26 2014 06:19:14 PM EDT
A bull shark nicknamed Sushi was finally captured in a pond at a Central Florida park.
"We are a shark-free park. Sushi is free," Indian River Harbour Beach Mark Ryan said.
Trapper Leo Cross netted the shark, estimated to be about 4 feet long, around 11 a.m. Thursday off a pier, and trapper James Dean said the shark was released into the Indian River Lagoon.
Sushi had successfully eluded nets, explosions, boats and baited hooks during a fruitless daylong capture campaign Wednesday that drew hundreds of spectators to Gleason Park in Indian Harbour Beach.
Three weeks ago, startled eyewitnesses began spotting the bull shark swimming in the 27-acre recreation area's freshwater pond. Speculation remains rampant on how -- and when, and why -- the aquatic predator arrived there, and the misplaced carnivore has attracted national media coverage.
Earlier Wednesday, two wildlife trappers and various volunteers employed a 50-foot net, a small rowboat, chum bags, fishing poles, bird-chasing firecrackers and other equipment across the pond for hours trying to catch the shark, to no avail, Channel 4 sister station partner Florida Today reported.
By noon, parking lots were packed, gawkers crowded the pier, and motorists lined vehicles along Yacht Club Boulevard near television news vans.
Dick Ellis, 87, an Indian Harbour Beach retired teacher who visits Gleason Park weekly, was surprised to encounter a news helicopter hovering overhead and a gang of about 50 shark-crazed summer-camp kids. He dubbed the park "a three-ring circus" and "a rodeo."
"Beats sitting at home in front of the boob tube," Ellis said. "If you would see a shark fin emerge, this whole place would erupt."
"It's definitely a unique situation with the shark being in this lake. So for us to even get out here and attempt it with a net and fishing and so forth, it's definitely a shot in the dark," said Cross, co-owner of Florida Wildlife Trappers of Orlando.
Sushi was swimming amid plentiful populations of tilapia, turtles, mullet and other prey in a 4- to 5-acre pond with an average depth of 4 or 5 feet, said Eric Larson, Indian Harbour Beach public works crew leader.
Depth increases to 10 feet near the two fountains, and some holes reach 20 feet deep, Larson said. One 6-inch outflow pipe equipped with alligator-thwarting metal baskets directs water to a canal that leads to the river.
Initially, the trappers tried to lure Sushi toward the outflow pipe using chum bags filled with chopped tilapia and mullet. But they dumped that strategy about 11:30 a.m. after Kendall Davis, 14, a Satellite High rising freshman, spotted the shark toward the south end of the pond.
"I saw something move, and I thought it was another turtle. But then I noticed the tail was waving more like a shark," Davis recalled. "When it got closer to the pier, I saw it was definitely the shark."
Dean and Cross boarded the rowboat and paddled to the scene, tossing two bird-control firecrackers into the pond. After the second booming explosion, pier spectators saw Sushi surface.
Those twin explosions also prompted somebody to complain to state wildlife officials, fearing the trappers were attempting to blow up the shark. An officer was dispatched to the park.
"FWC showed up, thinking we were using dynamite," Dean said.
After unsuccessfully spending most of the afternoon chasing the shark with nets and smaller firecrackers, Dean tied three chum bags to the repositioned net at the pond's southwestern corner. The revised plan: Pull the net to the shoreline and trap Sushi near a culvert, which leads beneath a park entrance road to a small, shallow body of water.
Dean then resumed fishing for the shark from shore with his deep-sea pole. Using this method previously, he caught and released nine turtles Monday and two turtles Tuesday.
"This is going to be the setting for 'Sharknado 3,'" joked Laura Johnson of Arlington, Virginia, a retired federal police officer who stopped by the pond after watching television news coverage.
Johnson brought along her son Kyle, 14, a Melbourne Central Catholic rising freshman.
"We've been here 30 minutes, and I want to see the shark eat someone. That's really it," Kyle joked, prompting Laura to burst into laughter.
The FWC will pick up the tab for the shark hunt, Ryan said, and the city will not incur any costs. Mayor Gene Newberry pedaled his bike to the pond Wednesday night, and he said Indian Harbour Beach was in "uncharted waters."
Christie Rush is a FWC marine biologist. She raised an admittedly "farfetched" hypothesis: A bird of prey, perhaps an osprey, snatched the shark from the river at a young age, then dropped it in the pond during flight.
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