Three years ago, commercial fisherman John Dean made headlines when he caught the first bull shark in the Potomac River in 37 years, and last Tuesday he repeated the feat not only once, but twice. Out of their natural element, the two eight-foot-long sharks quickly expired when netted. Dean and his crew did not immediately recognize the fish, but soon realized the danger the sharks posed when pulling in the nets.
“It was a good adrenaline rush, I would say,” Dean’s son Greg told The Washington Post. “It was a little scary, but then at the same time, it was very exciting. We really just don’t think at that point. We just keep pulling it in and try to see what it was.”
Bull sharks can survive in freshwater and are known for their ability to travel far up rivers. Sightings of these intrepid explorers have been recorded as far as Illinois by the way of the Mississippi River and along the Ohio River, putting them in close proximity with humans. This presents a danger as bull sharks are highly territorial and live in shallower waters than most of their kind. Experts say that bull sharks are among the most dangerous species of shark to humans, along with their better-known cousins the great white and tiger sharks.
It just so happened that aboard Dean’s ship was a Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist, who was able to document the fish. The first bull shark was caught near Point Lookout State Park and was already dead before the fishermen could pull it on board. It was easy for the crew to identify the second shark hours later, swallowing fish whole while in the net.
“Pulling it in the boat was very hard, but once we did that, we just kept a safe distance,” Greg Dean said. “He can still snap his jaws, which he was still doing. We saw all those rows of teeth he had that were razor sharp. This is one of the most deadliest creatures on Earth, and we had him just a few inches away from us.”
Their second catch also died as the fishermen headed back to shore. The two eight-foot bull sharks are now being kept in a freezer and the Deans are considering sending the carcasses to researchers. As for the reason behind the rare catch, Greg Dean speculates that the sharks have been lured into the Potomac by warm waters and abundant food. Bull sharks have a preference for warm climates and are often seen in coastal waters or large rivers.