In the picture, the bull shark towers over the Maryland fisherman.
Larry “Boo” Powley stares into the camera, seemingly unfazed.
The story of how the 65-year-old commercial fisherman came to pose with a 310-pound bull shark began Monday morning when Powley set out on the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland.
Powley, who has been on the water for 42 years, said he was planning to catch his usual crop of menhaden, a common fish often used in fish oils for humans and bait for blue crab. Menhaden measure 15 inches at most, so the 8.6-foot-long bull shark that got stuck in his trap off Cedar Point, in St. Mary’s County, around sunrise wasn’t hard to notice.
“He didn’t give us much of a problem,” said Powley, who hauled the shark in with the rest of the fish, then released it — but not before snapping a picture.
Standing with dozens of fish at his feet, Powley held the shark by its fin in the photograph, which was tweeted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. A rope attached to the shark’s tail is holding it upright.
The average person should avoid handling a bull shark and “stay away from their teeth and head,” said state fisheries biologist Erik Zlokovitz. But Powley “knows what he’s doing . . . he’s an experienced waterman,” Zlokovitz said.
Powley said he has accidentally caught between eight and 10 bull sharks in the past two decades.
Asked whether he was scared of the bull shark, he replied, “No. I’ve handled them before.”
Monday’s catch was the largest he’s seen. Powley said the shark was “very weak” when he reeled it in because it had not been able to swim around in the trap, which is how sharks breathe.
“It was definitely an impressive size,” said Zlokovitz, adding that the shark also was one of the largest he has seen in recent years.
Zlokovitz said bull sharks, which swim up and down the Atlantic coast and are known for their stocky, barrel-chested build, tend to be between six- and eight-feet-long.
“This is an irregular occurrence, but it’s not extremely rare,” Zlokovitz said of Powley’s catch, noting that it seems a bull shark is caught every two or three years in the lower Chesepeake Bay.
Although bull sharks aren’t an endangered or protected species, Maryland officials have been encouraging fisherman to release them if they are caught, Zlokovitz said.
“They’re important to the food chain and the balance of the ecosystem,” he said. “People are concerned about the welfare of the sharks these days.”