Concern rising over bull sharks after attack

Posted at 7:35 PM, Apr 14, 2016

Concerns are popping up across Palm Beach County our after a man was bitten by a bull shark while spearfishing cobia Wednesday.

Kyle Senkowicz is recovering at St. Mary's and is expected to be OK. He suffered multiple bite wounds on his right arm.

Meanwhile local fishermen say the best time of the year for cobia spearfishing is approaching. Over the next couple of months, they say, more bull sharks will be in local waters. Cobia generally swim alongside sharks.

While the chances of taking home cobia are more likely at this time of year, the chances of being bit by a bull shark are as well.

"Cobia hang around sharks," says VAMOS! Fishing Charter's captain, Don Van Epp.  "They spear the cobia and the shark's right there...asking for trouble."

Van Epp says he's been fishing in Palm Beach County's waters for decades, and doesn't dive in to catch his fish because he knows how dangerous the area is.

"People don't realize it, but there are a lot of sharks out here, moreso than other areas," Van Epp says. "A lot of bull sharks out here, which account for a lot of shark attacks."

But Jonathan Dickinson, owner of Florida Freedivers, says he feels confident spearfishing in the area. He trains people to free dive and spearfishes in his spare time, and he says he's never had an issue.

"After you spear the cobia, most of the time the sharks peel off and swim away and want nothing to do with the fact that you shot their passenger," Dickinson says.

But he adds that anyone who dives for cobia should be well-trained and aware of all safety measures that come with the sport.

It's unclear what exactly happened in Senkowicz's case, but Dickinson says even when divers are doing everything right, there can be freak occurrences.

"We can try to learn some of their habits and some of their signals of what they can tell us to do or not to do," he says, "But at the end of the day, they're still a wild animal."