Off the Hook: Shark Week

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By Cali Hlavac, To Do In Destin

It’s August and that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite: Shark Week! This year, Shark Week runs August 9 to 16 and with that comes Discovery Channel entertainment, restaurant specials, and more. Sharks are an integral part of our eco-system. So, let’s learn a little more about a few of the popular species around our area.

Probably the most noticeable is the Spinner Shark. They are one of the most fun to catch and can be easily recognized by their ability to jump out of the water while spinning in circles. They are large and slender, with a pointed snout, black marked fins, gray skin and a white belly.

Next up is a Blacktip Shark, which can grow up to eight feet long and have black markings on the tips of their fins. They can be found in warm coastal waters around the world and frequent bays, estuaries, coral reefs and shallow waters off beaches and river mouths – all the places to encounter people. However, Blackips are typically non-aggressive towards people unless provoked or threatened.

Mako Sharks can also be found in our Emerald Coast waters and are known to be the fastest sharks on Earth – reaching speeds of up to 20 m.p.h. Their body is cylindrical, and females usually grow to be bigger and stronger than males, between 10-12 feet long. Interestingly enough, 92% of a Mako’s diet is Bluefish, and it will consume 3% of its body weight every single day.

Bull Sharks also reside in our area and are known to be one of the most aggressive. They are opportunistic predators that can eat almost anything they find, and often hunt alone. Bull Sharks get their name from their short, blunt snout and their tendency to head-butt their prey before eating it. They are often found hanging around shallow, heavily populated areas in tropical climates. And while they may be aggressive, humans typically are not on the menu.

We’ve also had some Hammerhead sharks make appearances in our area. While they typically reside in deep waters offshore, they will migrate in the summer months in search of cooler water. They are easily recognized by their hammer shaped head and are usually gray-brown or olive green in color. Most hammerhead sharks are fairly small and are considered harmless to humans.

Fishing for sharks has become popular in recent years. Typically, it’s a long fight, one that really tests your strength against the shark’s strength. You can take a Shark Fishing Charter with a captain, or you can catch them yourself off the beaches. A good variety of the sharks in our area are protected, making them catch and release only – but perfect for the trophy angler.

Now that you’re an expert on sharks, I’ll leave you with one more fun fact: Many of the scenes in Jaws II were filmed right here in our own backyard of Destin to Navarre Beach, from August to December of 1977. It was the highest grossing sequel in history, until Rocky II was released. Out of all the movies filmed in Destin, Jaws 2 sticks in the mind of locals, as many were allowed to function as extras in the beach and town scenes. Even though the movie was filmed over 40 years ago, a lot of the shot locations are still up and running.

Not only did this classic horror flick place our area on the map, but it began a long-lasting trend of celebrity visits! From celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, to rumors of the late Michael Jackson, and numerous country music artists, the rich and famous have been frequenting our little strip of paradise for decades.