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OUT FOR BLOOD
Jack Rudloe
April 25, 1977
The author, who collects marine specimens for laboratories, usually searches for hermit crabs on the tidal flats of Florida's Gulf Coast, dips up jellyfish from his dock or scrapes barnacles from its pilings. But when an order comes in for a gallon of shark's blood, he barrels out to sea
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April 25, 1977

Out For Blood

The author, who collects marine specimens for laboratories, usually searches for hermit crabs on the tidal flats of Florida's Gulf Coast, dips up jellyfish from his dock or scrapes barnacles from its pilings. But when an order comes in for a gallon of shark's blood, he barrels out to sea

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Some species of sharks like catfish. In fact, sharks are probably the only predators in the ocean that can consume them with impunity. There was once a shark-fishing tournament in Apalachicola, and large numbers of them were brought in and cut open by people ghoulishly looking for human remains, but they didn't find any. What they did find inside the 12-foot tiger sharks and 10-foot lemons were hundreds of partially digested spiny catfish.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a large black fin popping up a few feet from the boat, and I shouted, "Shark!"

"That ain't no shark. That's a porpoise," said Edward, laughing. I felt foolish. Sure enough, the fin came up and the black back rolled and I could plainly see that it was a porpoise. Very likely it was eating some of the mullet heads, because bottle-nosed dolphins, as they are properly called, are very fond of mullet. Another porpoise surfaced, blew a loud phoof and went below.

We sat drifting for almost an hour. Once we went over and checked the bait and threw out more chum, but there was no activity. It was beginning to look like another wasted day; obviously the tide had changed, and it appeared that the sharks had headed out to sea.

Then Edward shouted, "We got one! We got one!" and pointed at our farthest jug. "Look at that son of a gun fight!"

The once-calm waters were seething. The big white jug shot under the surface and in an instant came exploding back up. Even from that distance we could see the big gray tail fins lash out of the water. "Let's get him! Let's get him before he gets away!" cried Leon as he jerked the starter cord. The motor responded with a roar, and we were whizzing toward the rapidly moving jug, gaining on it.

The tunnel boat was the best kind for shark fishing, because its motor was mounted in an open box—the tunnel—in the bow, not on the stern. Leon could get right up on top of the jug no matter how fast the shark swam, dragging its concrete block behind it. If the shark veered off when it heard the motor approaching, Leon could turn equally fast. "Jack, get ready to shoot him," he said. "You may not have but one chance."

I stood waiting tensely with my arm outstretched and my .22 pistol pointing at the water. Leon reached down and grabbed the jug after it surfaced and braced himself. The shark sounded, almost wrenching Leon out of the boat, but he held on and yanked backward. For an instant I saw a gray spotted form appear beside the boat and I squeezed the trigger. Down went the shark, this time jerking the jug out of Leon's hands.

"All right, all right," he said irritably, "I'll get you this time. Jack, wait until I get him to break water, then let him have it."

Leon stepped back into the stern where Edward was able to help him grab the jug. "Now for God's sake don't let that rope wrap around your hand," he warned. "That son of a gun will pull you overboard. If you think you can't hold him, let him go."

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