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In hindsight I'm thinking that when he slapped my kayak with his tail he was sending me a warning.

Odd Tales - GamersPack

Minutes after arriving, he jumped in. He wore a wetsuit and gauzy yellow-palmed gloves so he could wiggle his fingers and attract his prey. He hovered about 15 feet down and saw a school of yellowtail, perhaps 50 or of them, shoot up from the deep. He pulled the trigger on his crossbow-like speargun, nailing a fish from six feet away. When he surfaced a sea lion was circling.

Sea lions are known fish thieves , and warm waters had helped make many of their typical dinners scarce in Southern California. Not wanting to lose his prize, Shafer drew in his catch, thrust his left hand through the gills, grabbed its tail with his right, and kicked toward the boat. If his ears had not been underwater he might have heard the screams from the deck.

He recalls only snippets of what came next. He felt a bump and looked down, seeing the 7-foot hammerhead on his hand. He let his fish go, and it swam off with his spear and line still attached. The shark gave chase. Shafer felt no pain, but looked back at his hand and saw that his shredded glove was turning red.

Suddenly he was scared. The crew tossed him a line, and he swam. They yanked him aboard and washed his injuries. They cut off his new wetsuit. With the charter still five or six hours from shore, the captain, worried about infection, called the Coast Guard. An MH Jayhawk helicopter arrived, and hovered above the boat while Coast Guard rescuers dropped down a line to the deck. They hoisted Shafer up in a litter and ferried him to a waiting ambulance. At the hospital, Shafer learned the shark had fractured his pinky, severed a tendon and left lacerations on his hand that took 40 stitches.

He is lucky hammerhead mouths are small.

Publication: The Cleft and Other Odd Tales

Shafer's hand since has mostly healed. He still spear fishes, and doesn't blame the shark, which he knows was just trying to nab his wriggling fish. Peter Klimley , a hammerhead expert at the University of California, Davis , says hammerheads, like sea lions, excel at stealing fish. That incident by itself would have been odd enough, but it was one of many in One angler in a kayak was repeatedly circled by a hammerhead. Fishermen two miles off Huntington Beach watched a foot hammerhead chase their bait. Another person, fishing from a kayak near Malibu, was bitten on the foot.

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The Cleft and Other Odd Tales

A dive-fisherman chasing yellowtail was bitten on his side off the Channel Islands after a long battle with a hammerhead. Lowe and Klimley say that hammerheads usually appear during warm-water El Nino years. And the blob made the California coast even warmer. But with hammerheads Lowe and others saw unexpected interactions, while other shark species demonstrated unusual behavior, the ramifications of which aren't yet fully understood.


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Lowe, who tracks juvenile great whites, noticed that waters were so warm that many stayed in California year-round rather than spend cold winters in Mexico. This came as mysterious attacks on otters by great whites already had steadily increased. Did warm water make things worse? Lowe can't say.

Leopard sharks, meanwhile, typically spend their days huddling in enormous packs in shallow water. Scientists suspect these mostly female sharks are warming themselves, perhaps to speed up gestation. But during this heat wave, waters were so hot everywhere that congregating may not have been necessary. People are fishing for sharks from small kayaks, which I'm sure is fun, but it's pretty crazy. As the climate changes, "highly mobile species like sharks have a big advantage," Lowe says. Read Caption. Go to Link Unlink Change. Cancel Create Link. Disable this feature for this session.

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