Longboat Key man bitten by shark
A spearfisherman injured in a shark attack was brought to Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria Island.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND - The tables turned on a 21-year-old man when he became a shark's target while spearfishing with friends off the coast of Anna Maria Island on Saturday.
Longboat Key resident Charles Wickersham sustained a severe bite wound by what appeared to be a bull shark that clamped down and tore back flesh so deep it exposed his thigh bone, said West Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson.
It is only the fifth reported unprovoked shark attack in Manatee County since 1882; Sarasota County has seen seven attacks in that same time, according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
Wickersham's injuries were not considered life threatening; he was was flown by emergency helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg for treatment.
“He had a substantial loss of blood, but he had good pulses and sensations,” Dotson said. “He was alert, conscious and talking when they airlifted him out.”
Wickersham, a 2008 Manatee High School graduate, was spearfishing in 40 feet of water about 3 to 6 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico around 3 p.m. Saturday when the shark attacked.
Wickersham's five friends were able to load him in their 24-foot boat and drive to the Rod and Reel Pier on North Shore Drive at Anna Maria's northern tip.
An employee at the Rod & Reel Pier said he did not know anything about the attack other than “it is not good for business.”
Paramedics and deputies treated the injury to Wickersham's left thigh while awaiting the helicopter.
The crescent-shaped gash was about 15 inches long with deep puncture wounds on one side.
“I've never heard of anything like that around here,” Dotson said.
A call to the Wickersham's home on Saturday evening went to the answering machine.
A New College of Florida student was bitten by a shark in August 2007 while she swam in Sarasota Bay.
Andrea Lynch, then 20, was bit on her ribs and pelvis and needed more than 100 stitches during a three-hour surgery to close the wounds.
A Mote Marine Laboratory shark expert had estimated Lynch was bitten by a bull shark about six feet long.
Bull sharks are considered one of the most dangerous sharks in the world and are among the most likely to attack humans. They can measure 7 to 12 feet and weigh 200 to 500 pounds, on average. Bull sharks are identified by a blunt snout, thick bodies and and long pectoral fins.
Spearfishing could have triggered the attack if there were bloody, distressed fish in the water; speared fish should be quickly removed from the water.
The month of September is recorded as the most active month for shark attacks in the state, according to International Shark Attack File.
There have been 545 confirmed shark bites in Florida from 1882 through 2006, with 13 fatalities, the File shows.