Floating on a yellow kayak off Galveston Island this Sunday, nine-year-old Hunter Stevens hooked his first shark of the season — a blacktip measuring nearly five feet in length. And like all of his big game fishing finds, Hunter has the video to prove it.
“Pull that rod tip up . . . there you go,” instructs Kevin Stevens, Hunter's dad, as the creature darts back and forth just beneath the surface of the bay. “Get ready, he’s going to run, when he runs, let him run.” The idea is to allow the shark to tire itself, so the father-son duo can reel in the animal and release it.
“Way to go,” Kevin congratulate s his son. "They don't call you Shark Boy for nothing, do they?"
“Don’t let him pull you over," Kevin laughs. "They might call CPS [Child Protective Services] on us.”
The father soon takes the rod and pulls the shark to the side of the boat, rubbing the animal's snout in an effort to keep it calm. "Help us out here, sharky," Hunter says while taking care of camera duties. "We're trying to release you."
And like that, the line is cut and the shark darts off into what are surely less human-populated waters.
“Way to go,” Kevin congratulates his son. "They don't call you Shark Boy for nothing, do they?"
The Stevens' are experienced at catching large Gulf Coast fish and, for several years, have been posting all the interesting finds on their blog, SharkBoyHunter.
Early sightings more frequent
According to a recent report, however, Hunter's mom Christina Stevens has noted that sharks have been appearing earlier in the season than ever. In fact, Kevin and Hunter almost caught two other large sharks earlier in the day Sunday.
CultureMap spoke with Houston Zoo aquariums keeper Rebecca Herring about the reasons behind the uptick in Galveston-area sightings and the dangers that might come along with it.
"This was not a dangerous shark, by any means," Rebecca Herring says. "For the most part, they're very skittish and will run away."
"This was not a dangerous shark, by any means," she says. "They're incredibly fast swimmers. If you come into direct sudden contact, it might knick you, but for the most part, they're very skittish and will run away."
Like most sharks along the United States coast, the blacktip is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Due to its speed and agility in the water though, it comes equipped with some reliable survival skills.
According to Herring, shark season is definitely getting longer.
"NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] keeps track of water temperatures and has definitely seen warm water on the rise," she explains. "The warmer waters tend to increase reproduction among smaller animals, which attracts the larger predatory fish."
Is that true?
While it had an expert on the phone, CultureMap had one last question: Does rubbing a shark on the nose really make it calm?
"Well, sharks have these jelly-filled sacks on their snouts that pick up electrical impulses in the water that help them find food," Herring says. "People say touching those spots puts the animal in an almost Tantric state." She notes that while the theory does make sense, there does not appear to be a substantial research to back it up — at least from the shark's perspective.
For now, until humans can communicate with sharks, this age-old question remains unanswered. Shark Boy Hunter probably knows though.