NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain is known for having sharks, but on Monday, a fisherman caught a surprisingly large bull shark, and he wants people to be aware of the lake’s dangers.
“I actually play the ‘Jaws’ theme song when I fish,” said fisherman Joseph Rohaley.
Bull sharks are one of the most aggressive and unpredictable types of sharks.
Rohaley caught his human-sized bull shark along the seawall in Lake Pontchartrain, which spans about 630 square miles and is about 12-14 feet deep. The city of New Orleans lies along its southern and eastern shores.
According to Britannica.com, Lake Pontchartrain is “more a tidal lagoon than a lake” since a narrow passage connects it with the Gulf of Mexico.
Sharks are common in Lake Pontchartrain because they swim in from the Gulf.
“Anything that is in the Gulf of Mexico is in Lake Pontchartrain,” Rohaley said.
So it wasn’t seeing a shark that surprised Rohaley, but rather its size.
“It was 5 foot, 5 inches, and it took about 45 minutes to pull in,” Rohaley said.
And he did it not from a boat, but while standing along the shore.
“Because that line can zip from 150 yards to 300 yards in 20 seconds,” said Rohaley, who threw the shark back in the water.
After his catch, Rohaley wants to encourage families to fish together and make memories, but to be careful around the water.
“It is amazing how close sharks can come in at night. It is like people don’t realize,” he explained.
Rich Toth with the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas says there are ways to avoid sharks. He says don’t swim in murky water, don’t wear shiny or sparkly clothing in the water, and avoid the water at dusk and dawn when sharks are feeding.
“There’s teeth in there. I mean, if you’re in that water, you’re game,” Toth explained. “Just be careful when you’re out on the water because you just don’t know what’s in that water.”
According to biologists, the three types of sharks that are most likely to bite humans are bull sharks, tiger sharks and Great White sharks.
Bull sharks have also been found in the Mississippi River.
Yet despite their aggressive nature, bull sharks rarely attack humans – the odds of being attacked by any shark are extremely small. There are fewer than 20 deaths globally from all shark species combined during a typical year, according to the National Wildlife Federation.