How a Great White Shark Tried to Devour This Charter Captain’s Brand New Electric Motor (Three Times)

by Owen James Burke


Captain Scott Fitzgerald’s brand new trolling motor is a little worse for wear after a few encounters with a great white shark. Photo: Madfish Charters

On Monday morning, January 19th, a small fishing charter boat was eight miles into the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida’s Panama City when they felt a thud. The next thing they knew, there was a great white attempting to tear into on the boat’s new electric trolling motor.

“He had the entire trolling motor in his mouth, and was moving it side to side, and it was shaking the boat,” said Captain Scott Fitzgerald of Madfish Charters to a local news station in Florida. “I’ve been chartering for nine years, and I’ve never seen a shark try to attack my boat. It was very exciting for all of us. It really got our hearts beating hard.”

Captain Scott Fitzgerald was shocked, and the next thing he knew, he was pulling the trolling motor out of the shark’s mouth and up onto the deck. He put the trolling motor back into the water back into the water for a moment as the shark continued to circle the boat, but the shark sank its teeth in not once but twice more, and the captain immediately had to retrieve his new motor from the shark’s mouth each time.

The propeller looks a bit dinged up, but other than the minor cosmetic wear, the motor seems to be intact and still operational for the sake of Captain Fitzgerald’s charter. The shark’s mouth, however, may be a little tender this week.

It might come across as odd that a shark might take up interest in a motor — it happens on occasion — but it’s a little less of a mystery with an electric motor. “Sharks,” as South Carolina Aquarium Shark Expert Arnold Postell told us last week in the case of the shark and the fiberoptic cable, “have the ability to detect electromagnetic fields with their Ampullae of Lorenzini. These are “jelly” filled pores at the tip of the nose/snout of elasmobranchs designed to pick up minute electric pulses put off by muscle contractions of their prey.”

So, the shark simply sensed the magnetic field from the motor, and took a couple of “test” bites to see if it was fit for eating. With this logic, it might be more of a surprise to some that incidents like this don’t occur more often.

Watch the news report:


As for Captain Fitzgerald, he’s now got another remarkable story to tell of his near decade as a charter captain. — OJB

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