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Does the color of your kayak effect it's chances of getting hit by a shark?

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  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,671 Captain
    I laughed too much to finish reading that “speculation” (trying to be polite since someone’s kid might be reading this...). I’ve learned a bit about shark behavior since we targeted them when I started work as a mate on charter boats out of Miami Beach way back in 1973 (they were our bread and butter back then and we killed everyone we encountered for the taxidermist)... Then years later I’ve worked the past 25 years as a full time guide working the coast of the Everglades where there might just be more sharks of every kind than you can imagine. For a brief period I even worked for a few folks from Mote Marine Labs doing a bit of basic shark research in that same area.... Here’s my take on it... great whites are cold water sharks that roam the world - but not in great numbers. In all of my years on the water I’ve only seen one - and at ten feet long it was a baby... At the time, mid-eighties I held a hook and line commercial ticket and ranged offshore of Miami Beach solo, at times as far as 30 miles... The one I saw came up to my skiff, looked it over, then swam away. It was only years later that GPS tagging of white sharks showed that although our waters are not their preferred area (too warm...) individuals do range into our waters -on their travels. At any rate, mature whites specifically target seals and make spectacular attacks on them at the surface. It’s a pretty good bet that’s why surfers and kayakers are occasionally attacked as well. Anything at the surface is only seen as a dark outline from underneath against a much lighter sky - without the slightest color at all. Go underwater then look up at the surface and you’ll be able to confirm this easily. I’m also a commercial fly tyer and have been using this principle successfully for many years. By contrast, though, in shallow waters fish can see colors and they become important as a factor that might or might not attract fish. One of the things I do with fly anglers is sight-fishing sharks using only a fly rod... The color of the flies we use is bright orange - the exact same color as your life preserver..., but that’s only for shallow waters. I have to say that surfing or kayaking in waters where seals are abundant is far more likely to draw an attack by a great white than the color of the kayak involved... And since you only find seals in cold water coastal waters that’s the kind of area that kayakers and surfers are most at risk in... Color has nothing to with what triggers an attack when the surfboard or kayak is attacked from below- it’s your outline or profile resembling that seal that’s the problem.
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
     And since you only find seals in cold water coastal waters that’s the kind of area that kayakers and surfers are most at risk in... Color has nothing to with what triggers an attack when the surfboard or kayak is attacked from below- it’s your outline or profile resembling that seal that’s the problem.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective.  With my much less limited experiences, I concur.  The only species of sharks I have experienced aggressive behavior from were Makos and Hammerheads.   Having spent my youth on West Coast Party boats, then working 30+ yrs on merchant ships traveling globally, I have yet to see a Great White Shark in the wild.  Which species of shark in Florida do you consider to be the most hazardous for a paddle craft? 
  • krashkrash Posts: 799 Officer
    Chumming, Bait Buckets, Stringers of fish, and Bloody fish in the kayak might have an affect...
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,671 Captain
    edited October 2020 #5
    Florida is the shark bite capitol of the world... Notice I said “bite” not attack since they’re two different things entirely...  Most shark bites here are mistakes by sharks wanting fish - not people.  A single bite that’s not followed up - of course needing 50 or more stitches on a hand, foot, or other place will flat ruin your day.  The reason we get so
    many is simply the number of folks in the water year ‘round along every bit of the state’s beaches. 

    Actual attacks are fairly rare but if you ever hear of someone badly hurt or killed by a shark the two chief suspects are the bull shark in daylight and the tiger shark at night in my opinion.  The bull shark is number three on the list worldwide for sharks that injure or kill people.  They’re quite aggressive and can actually swim and live in freshwater.  They’ve been found miles and miles up into places where people swim... The tiger can get really big and at night big ones swim very close along our beaches.  They’ll actually eat almost anything and if you ever hear that a swimmer has gone missing at night I’d consider a big tiger the number one suspect.  Bulls leave bodies behind - a big tiger may not leave anything behind.  Whole bodies have been found inside a big tiger...  The biggest tiger shark I’ve seen along the coast was only 11feet -,they get a whole lot bigger... 
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 182 Deckhand
    Two notable kayak shark encounters of mine...9' bull shark hooked while kayak fishing. We travelled at least 1/2 mile both downcurrent and up. Had it hooked at least an hour. Sometime in the last 15 minutes it rammed my kayak twice with it's mouth closed...I have an outrigger so it's pretty stable...but the third time it came in it had it's mouth open. It did not bite thru the hull but the holes were deep enough to necessitate repair. I cut the line shortly afterwards and have yet to fish for large sharks from the kayak again. If nothing else,it's tiring.

    Second time was nighttime kayaking in the keys when a largish shark of unknown species - head was a least 18" to 20" wide - raised it head out of the water to look at me. Right near the bow,right in the beam of the headlamp. It was only there for a few seconds and my only thought was "Wow!". 

  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,671 Captain
    Night time kayaking in the Keys.... Brave soul...

    I've run night charters for many years in the urban areas of Miami (between Miami and Miami Beach) in my 17' skiff- and can't remember the number of close encounters with paddle craft and other small jonboat type rigs - not one of them showing a light...  In general I like paddlers since they're quiet and rarely cause the slightest concern - particularly out of Flamingo and Chokoloskee where I run my day charters..   Folks in paddle craft at night are living dangerously as far as I'm concerned and sharks are the least of it... 

    I do encounter paddlers that do obey the rules of the road and do show a light if you get anywhere near them - but here in the big city - not very many... Every time I come all too close to a paddler I never saw until far too late it really worries me since I've almost been run down by other boats on more than one occasion in a skiff with a much bigger profile than a kayak  - and I'm very careful to always have all my nav lights working properly.  Far too many clueless powerboats around,  and at night, any distracted boaters might not even notice a paddler until they've crunched one.... 

    As far as bull sharks go - every one of them is dangerous at the boat.  I've handled and carefully released hundreds of sharks that my customers have fought to the boat along the coast and interior of the 'glades in the last 25 years.  They're bulls, lemons, blacktips, and others (from babies all the way up to a few that were nearly 300lbs...) - and we never take one out of the water.  I use only my hands with gloves in place and mostly even can get my hooks back with an 18" Arc De-hooker (as long as they're J-hooks - circle hooks in live sharks --- get left right where they are... ).  I do my best not to try to handle any shark that's still green (shaking its head side to side and still thrashing around) - but once it settles down and will lay alongside my skiff I control it by holding onto a pectoral fin (on a hammerhead you hold by the hammer...), have my angler keep the leader taut - then pop the hook loose with the de-hooker and allow it to go free - all without ever even attempting to pull its head out of the water... Any time I see video of anyone tail roping a shark or pulling its head up out of the water - I figure they're either doing it for the camera or just don't know what they're doing... 

    Lastly anyone in a really small light boat or kayak is at a terrible disadvantage if they're hooked up on a really big fish that can tow them around... lf you're getting towed there's simply no way to put much drag on the fish and you can't tire it out effectively at all.  If it were me I'd want a small lightweight anchor to hold the little boat in place and allow me to really put some heat on the animal... Of course you have to be careful and perfectly willing to break it off if you're in danger of being swamped in the process... 

    "Be a hero... take a kid fishing"


    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    edited October 2020 #8

    Two notable kayak shark encounters of mine...9' bull shark hooked while kayak fishing. We travelled at least 1/2 mile both downcurrent and up. Had it hooked at least an hour. Sometime in the last 15 minutes it rammed my kayak twice with it's mouth closed...I have an outrigger so it's pretty stable...but the third time it came in it had it's mouth open. It did not bite thru the hull but the holes were deep enough to necessitate repair. I cut the line shortly afterwards and have yet to fish for large sharks from the kayak again. If nothing else,it's tiring.



    Was that you in a youtube video? or is there another incident of a hooked bull shark attacking a kayak when it was pulled in close?    I have seen two youtube videos of hooked Bull Sharks alongside attacking kayaks, one in the keys, the other in the panhandle.   I have brought a few big bulls alongside the kayak and never had an issue.



    Second time was nighttime kayaking in the keys when a largish shark of unknown species - head was a least 18" to 20" wide - raised it head out of the water to look at me. Right near the bow,right in the beam of the headlamp. It was only there for a few seconds and my only thought was "Wow!". 


    Second, to getting hit by a derelict boater, a night encounter with something like that is one of my biggest concerns.  While I launch in the early morning darkness to catch bait, the nearby unexpected turtle splashes and tarpon jumps are sometimes pretty startling.
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    Night time kayaking in the Keys.... Brave soul...

    Lastly anyone in a really small light boat or kayak is at a terrible disadvantage if they're hooked up on a really big fish that can tow them around... lf you're getting towed there's simply no way to put much drag on the fish and you can't tire it out effectively at all.  If it were me I'd want a small lightweight anchor to hold the little boat in place and allow me to really put some heat on the animal... Of course you have to be careful and perfectly willing to break it off if you're in danger of being swamped in the process... 

    "Be a hero... take a kid fishing"


    I carried a drift sock for a long time just for that reason.  So far, the tow effect on the kayak has been more positive than negative and I have yet to deploy a drift sock.  It is amazing how quickly a big fish will tire out if one locks down the drag forcing the fish to pull the full weight of the kayak.  With my yak, I need to be using 100lb braid to feel comfortable enough to lock down the drag and not be concerned about the power of the fish against the kayak breaking the line.    
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 182 Deckhand
    I stay on Big Pine during January and February. There is almost NO boat traffic after dark in the area in winter. NONE. That said,I have both (red/green) bow lights and a white stern light. I have a spare pair aboard and two more back at camp. Saltwater and Attwood "waterproof" portable running lights. lol...I also have a very bright headlamp...and other than crossing the channel along the bridge at night I stay very close to shore - especially the calmest leeward shore.

    I like to see stuff.

    That shark bite...I took no video but I have posted a couple pics on this site of the upper and lower bite marks on my kayak. Someone else supposedly has a video of me that day taken from the Spanish Harbor bridge. I've never seen it. I was halfway to No Name when the shark got mad enough to ram and then bite the kayak. We'd already been pretty much out of the channel out front,then back in and thru the bridges. Maybe it took that long to realize that's where it's troubles were coming from. I dunno.

    The fish camp dumps the previous day's fish cleanings into the channel at exactly the same time every day. They've been doing that for decades. My first couple years in the area I'd go out when dump time was on an outgoing tide. I'd anchor up right after they dumped. It didn't take long to realize I needed a quick release anchor system (with bouy) so I could go after them. There's just too many lobster/crab bouys in the area...First year I had a regular paddle kayak. Once hooked up and off anchor it required a lot of core strength to keep the kayak pointed towards the shark...OR occasionally,tarpon. I jumped my first big silver king on a grunt carcass,8/0 circle hook and 80lb steel leader....

    Second year I had a Hobie with mirage drive and rudder. I also had learned enough that it was no longer my gear that was the weakest link,it was me. And that those weren't small sharks - or even big nurse sharks for that matter - they were the big aggressive STRONG species. The time my kayak was bit was the last time I deliberately fished for them...But I'm sure glad I had the experience. lol.

    Back to nighttime kayaking: the very first night of the very first trip to the Keys I camped at the tent camping area at Bahia Honda.I set camp then started dinner as it got dark. Walked over to the "borrow pit" in water so calm and clear it almost wasn't there, was an octopus. I picked it up and played with it until my dinner started to burn. I guess I didn't know they could bite,but I was hooked. After dinner I spent the next several hours wading the shallows looking at stuff. With shoes,of course....I've ALWAYS liked nighttime fish viewing no matter where I am but this was before I was accustomed to saltwater. All that "new stuff"... I counted crab species,ray species,little sharks or other fish...so I find an occasional nighttime look-see enjoyable...except when I get in the middle of a needlefish school. Iol. They're way more jumpy at night. I feel like I should be wearing safety glasses.

    I seldom go out at night now but occasionally find myself unable to get back to the launch by sunset. I have a kayak very similar to youtuber KWKF (he's on FS too) with outrigger and 2.5 horse outboard. Max speed is about 7kts. Bring a gallon of gasoline and range is more than 30 miles. It actually handles rough water better than some skiffs I've seen although it can be a rough wet ride..

    Every year now - first couple weeks I fish the 10K camped at Collier Seminole SP,then on to the lower keys for a couple months. Then back home to work my butt off for 8 months....it's been a rough work year so far. I am incredibly anxious to get back down there.
  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 11,772 AG
    When I am out on the kayak, I'm more concerned about other boats than sharks.  I'm always amazed at the speed boats go especially in tidal creeks that are only a couple feet deep.
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • duckmanJRduckmanJR Posts: 21,264 AG
    I have no input other than supposedly...Yellow is a bad color...also refered to as " Yum-yum yellow"
    There are many roads to travel
    Many things to do.
    Knots to be unraveled
    'fore the darkness falls on you
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    duckmanJR said:
    I have no input other than supposedly...Yellow is a bad color...also refered to as " Yum-yum yellow"
    The article shows records that debunk that theory that was based on an old Navy study.   
  • duckmanJRduckmanJR Posts: 21,264 AG
    duckmanJR said:
    I have no input other than supposedly...Yellow is a bad color...also refered to as " Yum-yum yellow"
    The article shows records that debunk that theory that was based on an old Navy study.   
    This...is not debunking... ************************************************************************************************************************************** In 2011 researcher Nathan Scott Hart of the University of Western Australia shook up that thinking when he determined many if not most sharks are likely colorblind. The sharks in the earlier studies “were probably attracted to [yellow] because it would have had a very high contrast against the surrounding water.” ************************************************************************************************************************************ And the end of the article said...It is *INCONCLUSIVE* .... So... Until I read actual peer reviewed SCIENCE..... I will stick withy what the Navy thinks.
    There are many roads to travel
    Many things to do.
    Knots to be unraveled
    'fore the darkness falls on you
  • krashkrash Posts: 799 Officer
    I'd worry, especially you offshore kayakers, more about dark and camo colored kayaks being hit by clueless Boaters...
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,260 Captain
    If I'm thinking of the same Navy tests, I believe they were conducted during WWII to try and cut down on loss of life from sinking ships due to Shark attacks and they were very well documented.  Whether the yellow is more attractive to Sharks due to contrast and color blind Sharks or if non-color blind Sharks really don't like yellow isn't of great concern to me - I'd avoid the yellow.  I haven't talked to a Shark lately to ask it about its' vision.  Enuf problems out there without possibly adding to them.
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    edited November 2020 #17
    duckmanJR said:
    duckmanJR said:
    I have no input other than supposedly...Yellow is a bad color...also refered to as " Yum-yum yellow"
    The article shows records that debunk that theory that was based on an old Navy study.   
    This...is not debunking... ************************************************************************************************************************************** In 2011 researcher Nathan Scott Hart of the University of Western Australia shook up that thinking when he determined many if not most sharks are likely colorblind. The sharks in the earlier studies “were probably attracted to [yellow] because it would have had a very high contrast against the surrounding water.” ************************************************************************************************************************************ And the end of the article said...It is *INCONCLUSIVE* .... So... Until I read actual peer reviewed SCIENCE..... I will stick withy what the Navy thinks.
    OK. Marine Biologists have documented that most sharks are color blind.  So, if your down deep looking up, what has better contrast? Light color or a dark color?    The chart does not look too inconclusive to me.....yellow and white kayaks had 25-50% fewer incidents than all the other colors.

    I have 5 years offshore in a yellow kayak and have had multiple confrontations with sharks,  Many incidents when a shark chomps my fish right before I boat it, and not a single kayak biting incident.      And the end of the article said..." It’s sadly much easier to find instances of boaters plowing over and killing paddlers."   Whether you think yum yum yellow is debunked or not,  I am going to feel much safer offshore in my yellow kayak than any darker color.


  • krashkrash Posts: 799 Officer
    Wow, sharks are colorblind, kool now I have something in common with sharks.
    Old Fugger who just likes to fish
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    edited November 2020 #19
    Glad that yum yum yellow does not hold true..... Yesterday I was drifting offshore in 250ft of water, taking on the phone, not paying too much attention to the fishing when I looked to my left to see a huge hammerhead swimming up from the depths straight for my kayak!  About 6ft short, she turned and broke the surface off my stern.  Her dorsal fin was about 36" Tall!  She then resubmerged making a parallel pass off the Stbd side of my kayak.  Although this shark was not much longer than my 13ft Kayak, what struck and amazed me about this Shark was it's girth!  It was bigger around than my 36" kayak! This shark was more cautious than other big ones that have casually swum up within near touching distance.  From about six feet down, she tilted her head so that the eye on the end of the hammer was staring right at me.  I was awestruck!!....excitedly shouting "Holy Sheet !!!"  I think the shark sensed the shouting, and she took off never to be seen again.  It was a very humbling experience.  That creature could have easily destroyed my kayak.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,671 Captain
    That was a great hammerhead...  They have a very noticeable tall dorsal fin and the hammers on a big one will be every bit of three feet wide... 

    Inshore in south Florida we see them in places with lots of big tarpon (places where anglers are hooking and fighting big tarpon).  I’ve seen them as big as 18’ long... They’re death for any big fish you’ve hooked but you’re not on the menu if you’re not in the water...
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • Lake-LinkerLake-Linker Posts: 182 Deckhand
    That's awesome,JM. Thanks for sharing
  • John McKroidJohn McKroid Posts: 3,988 Captain
    That's awesome,JM. Thanks for sharing
    Glad to be able to have shared that, LOL.... it left an impression that will stay with me for a long time.

    That was a great hammerhead...  I’ve seen them as big as 18’ long... They’re death for any big fish you’ve hooked but you’re not on the menu if you’re not in the water...
    Thankfully true..... at least so far.....LOL
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