STUART, Fla. — Two fishermen in Stuart were in the right place to help a shark, struggling with a rope tied tightly around its neck, cutting into its gills.
Cellphone video captured the moments when David Fleming and Ethan Crawford came to the shark’s aid near Sandsprit Park Tuesday.
The two friends said they were out fishing when they saw two fins in the water.
“We were interested to see what it was, maybe it was something worth catching,” said Fleming.
They got close enough to see there was a shark in shallow water, swimming in circles. They believe it was a lemon shark.
“When we first saw it we thought it was working up some fish like it was feeding,” Crawford said. “Then it kept circling and circling so we watched it for quite a while and we realized something was probably wrong with it.”
“We noticed it had like cuts around the gills and we noticed there was a rope wrapped around it,” Fleming said.
The rope had cut more than an inch into the shark’s skin, Crawford said.
Fleming eventually jumped off their boat, hoping to grab the shark, which was already fatigued, without wearing it out even more.
“It was pure adrenaline,” Fleming said.
Fleming was able to grab the shark’s tail and pull it closer to the boat.
“The goal was to try to cut the rope off and get it back in deep water and see if we could revive it,” Crawford said.
Fleming and Crawford worked to tie a rope to the shark’s tail. Once it was controlled, they removed the rope from the shark’s neck and carefully removed the rope around the tail.
“I’m willing to take the risk to help a shark instead of my risk, we absolutely need sharks in our river,” Fleming said. “It was worth the risk getting the rope off his neck and have him swim off instead of us finding it on the beach a week later washed up or something like that.”
The duo says there is a lesson to be learned for fishermen.
“Don’t put nothing around their head or their gills. If you see one injured, go for the tail like we did,” Fleming said.
“If you lose a rope around its tail, it’s not really going to have any effect on him like it did his gills,” Crawford said.
Crawford said there was also a tight knot in the rope, indicating to them that someone might have tried, but failed to catch the shark previously.