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Watch: ‘Incredibly Rare’ Piebald Shark Caught and Released in Florida

June 3, 2024 - Blog

Florida angler Jack Appleton has caught and tagged plenty of sharks — many of them from shore. Running a local land-based shark fishing charter, he’s tangled with bull sharks, tiger sharks, and most other species that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. But Appleton says his “coolest shark to date” is a rare piebald lemon shark that he caught over the weekend.

Appleton shared an Instagram video of the oddly colored lemon shark, which he described as “incredibly rare,” on Saturday. The shark is mostly white with dark peppering on its body and black fin tips. “Accidentally came across this beauty while fishing for some bulls,” Appleton wrote in the post, referring to bull sharks. He said in a comment that he caught it off Captiva Island, and the video clip shows him landing the lemon shark on a dock.

After lassoing the shark and dragging it onto the dock, Appleton saw that the shark had been tagged — which means he wasn’t the first person to catch it. These tags help researchers track sharks as they grow and travel the oceans, and Appleton helped fill in those gaps by taking measurements of the piebald lemon shark and sending them to NOAA, along with the specific location where the shark was caught. He then carefully unhooked the shark and released it back into the Gulf. (This was in accordance with state regulations, as lemon sharks are protected in Florida and “must be released without delay when fishing from shore.”)

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Several commenters have noted how uncommon it is to see a shark with piebaldism. The genetic condition is characterized by a lack of melanin, which causes pigmentation and gives animals their natural coloring. It’s seen throughout the animal kingdom, from horses and dogs to black bears and deer. And while it’s rare in wild populations, hunters see (and sometimes harvest) piebald whitetails every fall.

Sharks are a different story, however. According to Rob Chapman, a fishing influencer who re-shared Appleton’s video, “there’s only been two previously recorded versions of a piebald shark EVER.”

Appleton carefully removes the hook before releasing the piebald lemon shark.

Photo via Instagram

In March 2022, a group of scuba divers came across a piebald nurse shark in Honduras. This marked the first documented observation of piebaldism in that particular shark species, according to a study published later that year in the Journal of Fish Biology.

While it’s impossible to verify, another one of the two previously recorded instances that Chapman mentions could have been the same piebald lemon shark that Appleton caught. Commenting on Chapman’s post, Instagram user Michael Sipos claimed to have caught a similar looking piebald lemon shark off Captiva Island in 2022. He didn’t mention whether he tagged the shark before releasing it, and neither Appleton nor Sipos responded immediately to requests for comment.

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Either way, Appleton said he was grateful to see such a rare fish and add to the small pool of research around piebald sharks.

“There’s a lot of crazy creatures in the ocean,” Appleton wrote. “You spend enough time with bait in the water something cool is bound to happen.”    

The post Watch: ‘Incredibly Rare’ Piebald Shark Caught and Released in Florida appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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