Shark bites at Sebastian Inlet: Mullet run, ample bait fish likely increased shark activity

The combination of the mullet run and an ample supply of bait fish likely led to an increase in shark activity and two surfers being attacked earlier this week near the Sebastian Inlet State Park, said a shark expert at the University of Florida.

"Sharks are out there every day, but it's time to be extremely carefully now because the abundance of fish is high," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum.

Brandon Murray of West Palm Beach, 22, said a shark bit off his left little toe Monday afternoon in Brevard County just a few miles north of the Indian River County line. Tuesday, in roughly the same area, 21-year-old Brandon Taylor of Vero Lake Estates said a shark clamped onto his left arm.

The mullet run is a migration that happens each fall. The fish move out of the intercoastal waterways, through the inlets and alongside the beaches, Burgess said. Bait fish are likely in the mix on the beach side as well, Burgess said.

"Two bites in a short period suggests there's an aggregation of fish there," Burgess said.

The surfers were treated and stitched up at local hospitals and released on the days of their attacks.

Neither surfer suffered an injury as serious as Karen Stei, a 47-year-old German tourist who was attacked by a shark at Humiston Beach in Vero Beach in May. The shark sunk its teeth through Stei's left thigh down to the leg bone, tearing away a large piece of flesh, officials said. She returned to Germany about a week after the attack.

Stei's recovery has allowed her to return to work as an editor for a weekly newspaper in Konstanz, Germany, she said. She spent two months in clinics where surgeons transplanted skin from her right thigh to her left, she said.

"I walk without crutches now," Stei wrote in an email Thursday. "But it will be still a long way until the remaining muscles are as strong as they have been before."

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