Unexpected Visitors in Your Boat
We share our waters with some very large marine animals such as manatees, dolphins, stingrays, sharks, etc. One uncommon event is a marine animal suddenly and unexpectedly landing on your boat. Dolphins and stingrays especially frequently leap out of the water. These creatures are large and can hurt or kill you. If your boat is in range of their aerobatics, they may suddenly come aboard! There is no way to prevent this from happening, but you can stay clear of actively swimming marine animals to prevent an unexpected visitor.
Dolphin's love to jump. A baby dolphin will jump repeatedly in and out of the water when it first learns to swim (look mommy I can swim) and boy is it fun to watch. Dolphins also jump after prey or just for the fun of it; they are very aerobatic creatures.
A common occurrence in Florida bays are Dolphins playing in a boat's wake, jumping in and out of the water, following the boat. Usually you hear the passengers screaming with joy--it is truly a wonder site. If this happens to you, be very cautious they don't land in your boat.
Stingray's unexpectedly jump out of the water all the time. It is an incredible site to see a stingray in mid-flight and it happens all the time. They usually move into our area during the summer months with the smaller rays coming in the large schools. A common occurrence is a Stingray flying out of the water in front of an oncoming, probably getting out of the boats way.
One time I was out on Johnson's Bay behind Isles of Capri and a very large Spotted Eagle Stingray with two smaller ones attached to the back of her jumped right out of the water in front of us. It was incredible. We stopped the boat and circled around them, following the group. We assumed they were mating. Well after 10 minutes of following them, suddenly the large ray jumped out of the water with the other two attached right over the bow of my boat almost hitting a passenger. We all were in shock and realized that someone could have been hurt. A few years back a woman was killed after a large stingray leaped onto their boat and the tail barb struck her in the chest. This was unexpected, unavoidable, and unfortunate.
A friend of mine had a 90 lb. Spotted Eagle Ray land in her boat on Marco River in the summer of 2010. The stingray just missed my girlfriends head and landed in the bow of the boat. They had to go to Marco River Marina where it took two men to lift the stingray out of the boat and let it go back into the water. The whole time the stingray was in the boat the poisonous talk kept whacking the boat missing it's occupants. That was a scary ride!
Barracuda's are usually found offshore and love to sit on the top of the water near your boat, sometimes stealing your catch. It can be fun to watch them, but beware they could easily jump in your boat. Barracuda's are mean and have been know to go after people for no reason-don't harass them.
I had a friend once catch a snapper and a Barracuda came out of know where and grabbed the snapper and rushed towards a near by boat and jumped in! Another friend was on a fishing charter and a woman caught a snapper. As she brought the snapper aboard a 4 foot Barracuda came out of know where after the snapper and landed in the boat.
Sharks are dangerous predators frequently jump out of the water. Sharks are know to steal your catch as you reel it in. They have also been know to steel chum bags. On infrequent occasions they may jump out of the water after your catch, and possibly land in your boat.
In March 2011 an 8 foot 375 lb. Mako shark jumped into a 25 foot boat off the coast of Texas unexpectedly. The fishermen were cleaning snapper and threw the scraps into the water when suddenly the shark went 15 feet into the air and landed on their boat.
Airborne fish, I mean any fish that jumps out of the water, can land in your boat. Fish that are being pursued by a large predator will frequently fly out of the water to escape. When you see a fish jumping out of the water, a large one may be after him. It is possible for the small fish to fly into your boat and the bigger one come right after it into your boat too.
One summer day I was with the kids on the now gone Coconut Island with our boat beached. We were in the water on the backside of the island where it is 25 feet deep. Suddenly a school of Yellowtail Snappers came flying out of the water, circling the inlet and flying out every few minutes. We assumed a big fish was after the school. Well suddenly they flew right at us and hit the side of the boat. The kids had an idea - get some bait nets. So we waited for the Snapper to circle back again and wouldn't you know it, the Snappers jumped out again at us and the boat. The kids were ready with the nets. One boy caught a Snapper in a net and the other boy caught on in the face! (he cried, poor baby) We even had some land in the boat. What a memorable afternoon.
Any fish that can jump out of the water can potentially jump into your boat. The best advise is to stay clear of large marine animals, respect them and realize you are visiting their home.
Below are links to articles about marine animals coming aboard:
- Tiger Ray jumping into a boat in Islamorada March 2011
- Heftiest Catch: Fisherman's Boat Accidentally Lands 375-Pound Shark March 2011
- Barracuda attack leaves woman kayaker with punctured lung October 2010
- Dolphin jumping Marco Womans Boat August 2009
- Stingray Jumps Out of Water in Florida Keys, Hitting and Killing Michigan Boater March 2008