We are not sure the exact date at this time. 08/25/2014 is when we learned of the incident.
North Georgia fisherman John Wiley recovering from shark bite
Every single time somebody swimming on a Florida beach, or anywhere else, gets bitten by a shark, it makes news.
That, however, is not necessarily the case when the shark bite is of the "self-inflicted" variety. Hence, few people have heard about the recent nasty encounter North Georgia angler John Wiley experienced ... a shark bite that resulted in at least 60 stitches and staples to his arm.
Wiley admits, however, that he more or less "asked for it." He agreed to share his story in hopes other fishermen might learn from his painful mistake.
Wiley is a hardcore catfisherman and spends most of his fishing days on Chickamauga Lake, often with good friend Alan Butler. But last week, he and Butler went shark fishing near Apalachicola Bay in the bend of the Florida Panhandle.
"Alan and I both grew up on saltwater," Wiley said. "We were catfishing on Chickamauga Lake a couple of years ago, and we both talked about how much we missed fishing saltwater. We sort of made a commitment to start taking some regular trips. This was the third time we've been shark fishing."
Wiley said they love to fish for sharks because they grow big and fight hard, and "for the adventure" of pursuing a creature that can be extremely dangerous. All their catches are released unharmed. The only thing they like to bring home from their shark fishing forays are photos. Hence, they have gained a great deal of experience in the proper and safe way to handle them—until Wiley let his guard down.
"I got a little lackadaisical," Wiley admitted. "I don't blame the shark. He was just doing what sharks do."
Wiley had captured a "small" bull shark, about 4 and a half feet long. On larger sharks, Wiley and Butler always use what's called a tail rope, a heavy rope noosed around the shark's tail to help bring the fish into the boat, which also helps the anglers control the fish. In this case, however, Wiley decided this shark wasn't quite large enough to warrant a tail rope.
"That was the breakdown," Wiley said. "And when I got him on board, I never got his head pinned down. It's kind of like handling a rattlesnake. It's a bit of a rodeo until you get them pinned down."
As Wiley was trying to pin the shark's head as he has done hundreds of times before, the fish whipped its body around 180 degrees with a mouthful of slashing teeth.
"It all happened in a matter of seconds," Wiley said. "But I sort of saw it coming and was pulling my arm away when his teeth caught the top of my arm. Before I knew it, he'd just peeled the skin back off the top of my arm."
Wiley was fortunate that he was already pulling away, however, or it could have been much worse.
"If he had gotten a clear shot at my arm, he would have bitten me clear to the bone," Wiley said.
Even as blood began to pour from the wounds, however, Wiley couldn't stop what he was doing.
"I had to ignore [the bite] while I was still trying to get the shark under control. My No. 1 priority was to keep from getting bit again," he said.
It didn't take long for Wiley and Butler to get the thrashing fish under control, but there was no thought of pictures. They immediately tossed the fish back into the water, and Wiley began to assess his injury.
"I spent seven years in the Coast Guard and three in the Navy. For most of those years, I was an emergency medical technician, so I'm used to seeing some pretty bad stuff," Wiley said. "Of course it scared me, but then I quickly went into EMT mode."
Wiley said he actually had to reassure his fishing partners.
"I was telling them, 'I'm fine. It's not as bad as it looks,'" although he said the bottom of the boat looked like the floor of a butcher's shop.
Wiley said, however, the bite really didn't hurt.
"Surprisingly, there was not a lot of pain through the whole thing," he said. "I'm not sure if nerves were damaged or what. I just know that it's the worst injury I've ever had, but it hurt the least."
It took an hour and a half to get off the water and to an emergency room, where doctors folded his torn skin back into place and began to stitch and staple it all together.
It was the last day of their fishing trip, so Wiley was soon back en route to North Georgia, wondering if, or when, he would go shark fishing again.
"I have wondered about that," he said. "I'm a little apprehensive, but I am pretty sure I'll go back and handle sharks again. I'll just be much more respectful of what can happen and take the right precautions ... and be sure everyone in the boat with me does the same."
Wiley strongly recommends that novice shark anglers never bring a fish in the boat. Many shark anglers use a special long-handled tool to remove hooks so they never have to handle a shark to release it. And anglers who intend to keep a shark for food (there is a strict limit) often carry a handgun to dispatch the fish before bringing it aboard.
"They are all vicious little animals you have to respect," Wiley said. "I believe I had a couple of guardian angels with me in the boat, or this could have been hugely worse."