By Lirpa Loof
Every year around the first of April I am always reminded of the “Shark in the Caught in Susquehanna” story we ran in 2006. It is still one of the best stories we have done and certainly the best April Fool’s joke to date. I thought now would be a good time to remind everyone of the story so please enjoy!
MONTOURSVILLE — The unheard of…the impossible has happened. A shark has been caught in the Susquehanna River near here.
Noted outdoorsman Ken Hunter caught a nine-foot Bull Shark in the West Branch of the Susquehanna between Muncy and Montoursville on Monday. It weighed about 400 pounds and is currently in cold storage at Helmrich’s Seafood in Williamsport.
“I had been hearing rumors of shark sightings on the river in recent days,” Hunter told Webb Weekly. “It seemed impossible, but I had to check it out.”
Hunter, who writes a weekly outdoors column for Webb Weekly, said he caught the bull shark in what is known as the Canon Hole.
“I don’t want to go into a great many details of how, when and where my fishing buddy and I first located the shark, and what I used to catch it,” Hunter said. “All that will come out in some future articles. We have notified Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. They will be picking up the shark and taking it back for study.”
The Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas is also known as the cub shark, Ganges shark, Nicaragua shark, river shark, and various other names. Bull sharks grow from 7 to 11 feet and can weigh up to 500 pounds. They eat everything including other sharks, birds, dolphins, turtles and people.
The Bull Shark is the only species known to be able to spend extended periods of time in fresh water. According to an article on the National Geographic website, sharks must retain salt inside their bodies, without it, their cells will rupture, resulting in death. When sharks enter fresh water, their internal salt levels become diluted.
But bull sharks’ kidneys recycle the salt within their bodies. Bull sharks have traveled 1,750 miles up the Mississippi River and as far north as Illinois. Hunter’s catch is truly remarkable given the obstacles the shark must have encountered between the Chesapeake Bay and the West Branch of the Susquehanna. He estimated it must have taken two weeks for the shark to work its way so far up the river.
According to Wikipedia, the Susquehanna River is extremely ancient. It is often regarded as the oldest or second oldest major system in the world. It actually predates the Atlantic Ocean and is the longest river on the American East Coast. The river flows across southeastern Pennsylvania, emptying in the north end of the Chesapeake Bay.
On August 12, 1985, a large, bull shark was caught in the Chesapeake Bay along the western North Atlantic seaboard.
“There is something about these premiere predators that grabs us on a primal, gut level,” said Hunter. “Who can forget the stomach-churning, duh-duh-duh-duh music in the 1974 film Jaws? I can tell you my heart was thumping when I hooked this one.”
A predatory river shark so far up the Susquehanna sounds preposterous, unless you are aware of the story of The Jersey Man Eater, the probable inspiration for Peter Benchley’s book, Jaws.
Pennsylvania may be following the pattern of the other states — sightings, skepticism, more sightings and then actual proof. No one believed the sightings of a shark in a New Jersey creek, until the attacks began.
From July 1 to July 12 1916 there were five shark attacks in New Jersey — four of them fatal. Two were in the ocean but three were in the fresh water Matawan Creek. The creek was only 11 yards across at it widest and about 5 feet deep at high tide. So it should come as no surprise that a Bull Shark might find its way up a river the size of the Susquehanna
Webb Weekly wants you to be prepared in case you encounter sharks here or elsewhere. The following are a few safety tips more can be found on shark prevention websites.
• Remain Calm. Don't panic.
• Defend yourself with whatever weapons you can.
• Get out of the water quickly, but swim calmly.
• Don't swim or dive alone.
• Avoid entering the water between dusk and dawn.
• Avoid entering the ocean near river mouths, especially after a rainstorm.
• And finally, sharks can sense gullibility, so don’t be so gullible.
Gotcha! Happy Lirpa Loof Day!
Lirpa Loof is April Fool spelled backwards. Contributing pranksters, China Neal, Ken Hunter and Mike Rafferty.