Great white shark 'sighting' near AMI excites onlookers

acastillo@bradenton.comMarch 25, 2014 

Jimmy and Wayde Campbell spotted this shark, which they claim is a great white, during a fishing trip near Anna Maria Island. PROVDED PHOTO

ANNA MARIA -- The great white shark sighting near Anna Maria Island on Friday still has people talking.

The Bradenton Herald's Outdoors columnist Jon Chapman reported Sunday a fisherman spotted a great white shark during a fishing trip with his father, Wayde Campbell. Jimmy Campbell said he stopped close to the three-mile green buoy west of Bean Point, the northernmost point of Anna Maria Island.

The father-son duo aboard the Trista Lynn said they came across many bait schools -- and then saw it.

A shark swimming closer to them.

Campbell said he and his father initially thought it was a great white shark, but had doubts.

Sightings of the great white are rare in the Gulf of Mexico. The apex predator is known for living in cool waters and, according to Chapman, the water temperature was about 68 degrees where Campbell and his dad were fishing.

But when the shark rolled on its side, Campbell said:

"We knew right then it was definitely a great white, not a mako or other big shark."

Campbell estimated the shark was between 12 feet and 14 feet long.

As it hung around for a few minutes others on a nearby boat recorded a video.

According to Mote Marine Laboratory, a Sarasota-based nonprofit marine research center, the number of sharks in ocean waters has decreased in recent decades. Shark attacks, according to Mote's website, continue to cause fear in beachgoers.

Any sightings also spur a bit of skepticism from the public.

Linda Holmes, who works at the restaurant at the Anna Maria City Pier, said she's never seen a great white shark.

"And if I were to see it, I would run back in the other direction," said the Ohio native.

Nearby, Wisconsin native Scott Clements and his father-in-law, Mike Wisnefski, walked slowly back to the city pier's parking lot, fishing rods in hand.

"I'd be shocked if I were to see a great white shark," the 51-year-old Clements said. "It'd be a jaw-dropping experience."

Wisnefski, 76, said he's seen the shark commonly known as "white death" in Hawaii.

"I would be amazed." the retiree said.

Justin Sauveur had a simple question.

"Don't they track them?" asked the 24-year-old shift manager at Two Scoops. He added he plans on fishing in a boat from now on -- out of the water.

"I've seen sharks, but I probably would not know if one was a great white shark," he said.

If someone pointed it out to him, though, Sauveur admitted he would freak out a little.

Great white shark sightings aren't new to 72-year-old Bill Klender, who is visiting the island with his wife, Sandy, and sister-in-law, Peggy Casper. The Michigan native, leaving the Rod & Reel Pier and Restaurant on Monday afternoon, said he saw one 50 years ago while in the U.S. Navy.

"I was aboard a ship," he recalled.

If he were to see one today, though, it would be a completely different story.

"I would probably be scared," he said, "because they're known to be killers -- they're known to attack."

Amaris Castillo, Herald Law Enforcement/Island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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