The Fish Story

Weighing In on 3,000-Pound Great Lakes Great; LEI Channel-Building Sweats Out Reviews

By JAY MANN | May 30, 2017

So, my email suddenly lights up with a story headlined, “Fisherman Captures 3,000-Pound Great White Shark in Great Lakes?” As incontrovertible proof, there is a ride-along photo of a smiling fishing fellow squatting next to the landed 3,000-pound great white. You can Google “Great Lakes great white” for a read – but not until you’re done reading my updated version below.

Like many, I initially went agog over the story, primarily mesmerized by the high-resolution image of the bloody behemoth. The thought of such Benchleyian beasts plying the generally serenely inhabited Great Lakes was a stunner, though these lakes have long been up to their gills in folklore ripe with “monster” sightings. Hell, just last winter, a Go-Pro was lowered through a hole in Great Lakes ice and dang if it didn’t grab a gander at the famed “Lake Michigan Monster.” It was as plain as day, providing that day’s visibility is less than, say, 15 inches.

However, such sightings are mere phantasmagoric legend when compared to the perfectly photographed, somewhat overly deceased great white shark, a photo now circling across the oceans of the internet, a bit like great white superstar-shark Mary Lee. More on her, later.

I just had to follow up on this weird story.

It turns out the fisherman next to the shark is a respected, dues-paying member of a possible Great Lakes Great White Shark Fishing Association. That distinction alone would seemingly add irrepressible veracity to the story, right?

After an agog moment or two reviewing the story of the man hooking and fighting the megalodon-like fish, red flags began to appear before my eyes, followed by my angrily announcing, “Hey, wait one bloody Chondrichthyes minute!” – correctly pronouncing it as con-drick these.

Chondrichthyes are cartilaginous fish, as opposed to boned fish, Osteichthyes, which can’t be pronounced.

My vast shark knowledge – gleaned from having caught some dogfish and seeing “Jaws” who knows how many times – reared up. I clearly recalled reading that great whites hate even the sight of freshwater. It makes them sick as dogs – and further confirms it was not a great white perpetrating the great NJ shark attacks of 1916. Just sayin’.

In a burst of journalistic objectivity, I became suspicious of a 3,000-pound shark being caught in those lakes. It was time to go experting, a term never used by writers when on the trail of irrefutable experts for stories.

I began by going over a list of Google’s elasmobranchologists, pronounced sharkologists. Many Google pages in, I decided on a seeming top-crust shark expert, Angus Firebrat, CEO of a one-man firm called Sharks R Cool. Angus lives somewhere in Montana, though even he’s not exactly sure where.

Answering my phone call with an angry “I don’t want any!” Angus warmed a bit when I introduced myself as a Long Beach Island, New Jersey reporter, wondering if he was familiar with the massive shark caught in the Great Lakes. Oh, was he ever familiar.

“It’s absolutely crap about that fisherman fighting and landing a 3,000-pound great white in the Great Lakes!” he yelled.

Eagerly taking down quotes, I was sure I had found a perfect expert. However, my pen skid to a mid-air halt when Angus went yellingly on. “That great white was absolutely a dumped aquarium pet that was probably already dead! Fishermen are such liars.”

Say what!?

Per Angus, the 3,000-pounder was only the tip of a dead-shark iceberg.

What the hell kinda story do I have by the tail now, I wondered.

“We in the shark research realm are horrified over the burgeoning trade in great white sharks, kept as cute pets … until they get big enough to swallow whole roadkill deer. Great whites as pets has exploded, no thanks to your precious little Mary Lee!”

My Mary Lee?!”

“Oh, you know you’re one of those voyeurs watching her every move to see where she’s at, right now. Hell, people like you have made her and her pingy great white friends into superstar sharks,” huffed Angus.

He went on, “Everybody has gone gaga over her. And that’s where the gotta-have-my-own-great-white craze began … ending with the tragedy of a pet 3,000-pound great white floating, all bloated, around in the Great Lakes. He ‘Caught it’ my ass.”

“You mean to tell me, Angus, that Great Lakes shark was hand-raised?” I asked, pen still paused in my hand, uncertain what to do next.

“Damn straight it was hand-raised, probably from just a grub. Cruel crap like that is happening all over. And I blame those dang-blasted Ocreach people and their hoity-toity tagging and tracking,” said Angus, adding, “They’re immortalizing every great white they come across. It has every jackass wanting one. It’s like those live little alligators we used to get in Crackerjack boxes.”

“Crackerjack boxes?”

“Wherever! Just like that, the whole nation was raising alligators into monsters and finally releasing them down sewers, where they’re now eating dozens of people a day. You know all those people that go missing each year, without a trace? Yep … sewer gators got them. It’s all being glossed over by you media types.”

“Uh, Angus, buddy, you’re telling me that people are growing great whites and, when they get too big, they’re ... ?”

“Yes, they’re dumping them. Creeks, ponds, rivers … Great Lakes. Makes no difference. And you can thank the Ocreach folks.”

Stunned by the direction change in the interview, I hastily signed off and scrambled to call the Ocreach shark organization, located in … Park City, Utah? WTF!?

Fighting with Ocreach’s answering machine system, which mainly wanted to know what shark I was most interested in, I was excited to finally reach a fellow named Juaquin, in the organization’s janitorial division.

Trying to remain objectively aloof, I calmly asked Juaquin if his organization was aware of the disturbing trade going on in great whites for pets – leading to the sharks being grown to enormous hand-fed sizes, quite possibly in hopes of someday having those pets named and tracked by Ocreach?

After a telling pause, and with some obvious reluctance, Juaquin soon quietly admitted, “Los tiburones muerden muy fuerte.”

Holy crap! Did I just hear that, or what?! How was that not an official admission that the hand-raising of great white sharks is running rampant, nationwide, and that experts with Ocreach are being called out to places like in-ground swimming pools and backyard lagoons, nationwide, to rescue out-grown pet sharks – some pushing well over a ton and requiring entire horses for meals and needing massive doses of air through industrial-grade air cannulas strapped to their gill plates.

“Isn’t that what you’re telling me, Juaquin?!”

Uh, los tiburones muerden muy fuerte.”

Aha! Confirmation!

Now, what about the legality of great white keeping? From fishing, I know it’s taboo to even look wrong at a great white, much less keep one captive. I quickly found out that law enforcement has its tail tied, speaking in mildly appropriate metaphors.

Calling local law enforcement officers – who prefer to go both unnamed and uncalled in the future – it’s not as easy as one might think to just bust into, say, a Beach Haven West backyard, in search of underground shark-keeping activities.

“Most of the time, we can’t get a search warrant, even when we’re sure as sin that great whites are being kept as pets in those lagoons,” anonymously offered Officer Gerome Mathers. Doh!

This once-anonymous officer added, “It’ll likely take another Great Lakes tragedy, where something like eight different human limbs were found inside a 3,000-pound shark caught there.”

Unfortunately, at press time, I couldn’t confirm how many arms were within the Great Lakes shark, though reliable law enforcement sources have it currently standing at “something like eight.”

As a final validation for my story, I contacted a nationwide waste management company, reaching a fellow named Just-Hal. I asked, “Just-Hal, have you ever been called upon to dispose of, say, a huge dead great white shark?’

Just-Hal loosed a thoughtful exhale and admitted, on the record, that there has long been a huge waste management problem when it comes to disposing of monstrous, dead, pet great white carcasses – though Just-Hal coyly used the code words “fish guts and crap” to sidestep any mentioning of an actual great white – you know, legal issues and all.

Then, demanding an assurance that I would rot in jail before specifically naming him as my source, Just-Hal of Linden Avenue, Brookdale, NJ, went off the record to openly acknowledge that probably the best way to get rid of “a rotting fish” – again with the code – is “Go dump it in a big lake or something.”

Wow! That’s exactly how a perfect news story comes together in the end! From a Montana shark expert daringly suggesting that a 3,000-pound shark allegedly caught in the Great Lakes was dead from the get-go, while exposing the tragedy of homegrown pet great white sharks painfully dying from space deprivation, followed by an admission of contributory culpability by shark-tracking researchers, and, finally, the clandestine disposal of shark carcasses being cruelly heaved into the nearest body of water … I hope my spellcheck recognizes the word Pulitzer.

Oh, that’s right: This is Jay Mann reporting from Surf City, New Jersey.

PS: Please don’t go believing every wild news story that comes across the modern wires. You should always let us trained professionals process the stories first.

WHAT SORTA GUARANTEE, DUDE?: I got a minor – and dumbfounding – update on the Little Egg Inlet channel.

The Army Corps has no problem with sand from the dredging of a new channel being placed on LBI beaches. They kinda invite it, even being on-board with the concept of a repetitive placing of any re-channeling dredge sand to buttress the beachline from roughly south Beach Haven through Holgate proper.

Holgate proper is my personalized way of designating the peopled part of Holgate, as opposed to the natural south end, or the Holgate reserve area.

I also found out ACE has very little say in the channel-dredging matter. It’s pretty much a state project, until things get out to the shoals, outside the inlet. More on that momentarily.

In case you hadn’t guessed, all is not flowing so swiftly in the NJ effort to build the first man-made channel in Little Egg Inlet.

As I’m hearing/interpreting it, the National Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is apparently holding things up by demanding what amounts to a guarantee that the channel building, or the after-effects of same, will not negatively impact the shorelines adjacent to the proposed work zone. Yes, this is to make certain the shores of the adjacent Forsythe Refuge aren’t negatively affected, though I can’t say the national refuge system is behind the holdup.

Clearly, neither the state, nor the Corps, nor any rational soul, can offer a “no negative shoreline impact” guarantee from an LEI channel building.

The Holgate shoreline, including the sands fronting the inlet, has forever been in flux, currently like never before, at least in modern-times terms. An ironclad guarantee that nothing negative, shoreline-wise, will come of a dredging? That can’t even be said of not building a channel.

More baffling to me, how would one be able to single out any “negative impacts” from a channel-building, as opposed to the egregious, ongoing erosion taking place along the south end shoreline? And this is supposed to be proven before the project gets an all-clear to launch.

Assuming another water train of thought, might a channel ultimately protect the shoreline? One hydrologist I know suggests a channel – and the accompanying sand moving – just might slow certain south end erosion processes. Which leads us back to the outer shoals off LEI.

The Corps sees a usable sand borrow area in those shallows. They could offer a renewable source of beach-fill sand, theoretically allowing the reprocessing of sand that has migrated southward from replenished beaches. It’s a cyclical replenishing system that is essentially self-refreshing in nature. It would also fall under federal/state/local funding, as opposed to the LEI channel-building and maintenance, which will likely always come out of the state coffers.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.