A Shark’s Smile

   10.26.16

A Shark’s Smile

Florida Keys Capt. Lenny Moffo had been guiding tarpon anglers only a short time and made a rookie mistake that almost cost him dearly.

In those days he used a small hand “release” gaff for holding played-out tarpon at boatside while he did unhooking chores. No problem, except he put his hand through the gaff lanyard to prevent losing the tool overboard. He used the gaff that way successfully for a number of big tarpon, until one day guiding two anglers near Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys.

Lenny put the gaff in a 90-pounder’s lower jaw and was working on the hooks when suddenly a giant bull shark came rushing in and hit the tarpon in the middle across the back.

The shark pulled on the tarpon so hard Lenny couldn’t get the gaff out of the fish’s jaw, and he couldn’t turn loose the gaff because of the lanyard. So the 400-pound shark started pulling him overboard. Moffo yelled at his anglers to save him from going in with the shark, but they froze.

Lenny was in a panic but lock-hooked his knees under his skiff gunnel long enough that the shark cut the tarpon in two before Moffo got pulled over.

He’ll never forget kneeling in his boat with a massive tarpon head still hanging from his release gaff.

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