Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?
This mako shark threw itself onto a boat off Texas on Sunday.
March 30th, 2011
01:05 PM ET

Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?

Last Friday, a 300-pound eagle ray leaps onto a boat off the Florida Keys. On Sunday, a 375-pound mako shark jumps onto a boat off Texas.

What's up with the leaping sea creatures? Has Aquaman's telepathic message been scrambled? Are the buddies of "Jaws" seeking revenge? Are we going to need bigger boats?

Actually, "many ocean animals do jump out of the water when either chasing prey or trying to elude a predator," Timothy J. Mullican, vice president of zoological operations at the Georgia Aquarium, said in an e-mail to CNN. And the eagle ray and mako shark are both known jumpers, he said.

But plopping on a boat is far from the usual result, he said.

In the Florida case, "the presence of the boat may have spooked the eagle ray, or it may just be a one-in-a-million intersection of boat and animal," Mullican said.

And off Texas, "the shark could have conceivably been accelerating through the cloud of 'chum,' broken the surface and unfortunately found a boat occupying the space where it was going to land," Mullican said.

On landbigfish.com, fishing guide Dennis Dobson also provides a few ideas why free fish those yet to taste the hook jump. Females may be trying to loosen eggs for spawning, he says, and both sexes may be trying to rid themselves of parasites. Or, he writes tongue in cheek,  they may be just "flipping the fin" to fishermen.

If that's the case, then some fishermen have figured them out. They count on their catch leaping aboard. The book "Fish Catching Methods of the World" describes how fishermen in several countries rely on fish behavior instead of hooks and nets.

And leaping aquatic creatures aren't only found on oceans, rivers and lakes. I know this from personal childhood trauma. That goldfish gasping for oxygen on my childhood bedroom floor didn't jump from its bowl with a death wish, my parents assured me. That was just what fish sometimes did.

And while last weekend's two incidents were obvious shockers for those on board the two boats, imagine if a great white shark plopped onto your bow. That's exactly what happened to some German tourists off South Africa a few years ago. Get their view here.

In South Africa, the great white got away. And the Florida ray was set free. But things didn't end so well for the Texas mako or my goldfish.


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Filed under: Animals • Florida • Nature • Sharks • Texas
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Sutler

    Leaping Lamnidae Batman!

    March 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guy in the pool!!!!!

      Mako....

      March 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guy in the pool!!!!!

      POLO!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cat

      The unfortunate Mako apparently landed in the wrong boat; was it really necessary to kill it?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      @Cat Are you serious? A shark? That's like the primal fight between man and beast. They would no sooner stop drinking Budweiser! That fish is gonna end up next to some flat screen tv in a man cave. When I was a teen I saw a 20' whale shark off the coast of Miami in a 26' open fisherman. My friend's dad first words of reflection "I wish I had my gun, could have been a record." Turns out a 20' whale shark is pretty small and they are a rare fish but the concept is the same.... kill kill kill.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • senior-chief

      Dumb-sum-sitters, Gut, skin (some), get the saw out and filet the beauty--Ha!!

      March 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cat

      Michael, I am well acquainted with sharks of all kinds including whale sharks - dove with hundreds of them (except for whale sharks which numbered about 12 overall) in the Galapagos. Don't understand where this need to kill sharks comes from.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dingodog

      Cat, are you serious? You may of dove with some white/black tips, etc. but you weren't diving with no makos. They are one of the most dangerous/unpredictable sharks in the ocean. Also, are you saying you would be willing to put your hands anywhere near a green (fresh) shark that jumped on your boat to try to put it back in the water. I will pay to see that.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daina

      @ Cat; of course it was not necessary to kill it; that's just what are species excel at! Killing...

      March 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • hunter

      the whole man v shark is just there because they are the only creature that we cannot tame and have no fear in our eyes. And as humans we want to be the boss of every creature and if one more adapted than us and looks threatening causes us to have a totally no reason to kill a shark. They could release it back and it would be better for the oceans sharks are over fished as is . The is no want to kill it is just the were afraid of the mako. cause if it were a dolphin people wouldve freaked out but since it was a shark they saw it as a monster and killed it. You cant say a species is totally un predictable because every shark has its own personality and cant say everyone of them are unpredictable because if you study makos and other sharks you can predict what they will do to a extent. Its like a dog i can read its body language but one day it will behave differently.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • dingodog

      Hunter, not sure what you were trying to say in much of your msg but can tell you for sure that being able to read a dog and a shark are two very different things. I can tell you very definitively that a fresh mako on a boat that has not been tired out during a fight (although they aren't much better) will be impossible to maneuver to get it back out the boat. Sharks are very flexible and can almost touch their tail with the teeth. Try grabbing a sharks tail when it is that big and that green and hope it isn't the hand you write with.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JH

    Jesus for sure you need bigger boats look at the size of that thing could have tipped the boat and killer everybody who was on it, yes you need bigger boats.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hillbillynwv

    I would had liked to had seen the eyes of the fisherman when Mr.Mako decided to come aboard.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scarlet

    If your goldfish jumps out of the tank, always try putting him back in before turning to grief... even if he appears dry and lifeless... gently scooping him back into the water and swishing him back and forth may very well reanimate him. Just sayin'. Love my fishies.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chumlee

      Wrong! You never stand in the way of a goldfish committing suicide. They will hate you forever.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      There was a report about ten years ago about a goldfish killing a baby. The parents had the baby lying on its back by the fish tank and the goldfish jumped out into the babies mouth and choking the baby. Don't know if it was true but I did read it in print. However, you can't believe all of what you read.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. :(

    Did they kill it?

    March 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      You can try to manhandle a 400 lb angry shark back in the water and risk getting your arm bit off or you can kill it...of course they killed it! Although it may also have died from shock.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texas

      The fishermen on the boat were dumping fish guts into the water, that is what attracted the shark to that area. They were about 50 miles offshore out of Freeport, TX. After the shark landed in the boat, it was thrashing around causing damage to the boat and itself. The shark died after the trauma. A forklift was used to transport the shark off the boat which is on display right now in a local seafood market.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      No... it's just lying there still and all bloody just for the camera... Duh!

      March 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      My guess is they weren't on a pleasure cruise if they were chumming the water... sounds like they got a fish the easy way.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      @ Sara... LMAO!!!!!!

      March 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mystikat

      It ended up dying but it was horrible, they let it lay there and suffer for 4 hours. Very inhumane!

      March 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lean6

    That's a nasty looking shark.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sissy

    Scary

    March 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. chris

    jeez that shark is bleeding all over the place, it probably had a giant hook in its mouth and was panicked and jumped on board in an effort to escape

    March 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Semper Fi

    100lb Wahoo will fly into the boat chasing your bait out of the water.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Alex

    picture above "uhhhhhhhh, may i just have my fish and leave please"

    March 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JudyTTexas

    Kamikaze fish! It's Alien influence!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tracey

    That's why I stay on land. In my house LOL I'm terrifed of sharks and I live in CANADA for cryin' out loud... I blame JAWS

    March 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Patrick

    A fish jumping out of the water would be a human "Jumper" leaping off a bridge into the water. Perhaps the fish are depressed by the gulf oil spill.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anon

    Maybe they are depressed... We did polute water with all that oil...

    March 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Richard

    I bet you that shark wouldn't have jumped on the boat if CARLETTA was on there! Carletta doesn't like fishing! She won't even let me text!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
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