ISLE OF PALMS — The lemon shark caught in the surf by Cameron Dyson was big — 10 feet long. But sharks — and big sharks — frequent Lowcountry beaches just as beachgoers do.
As the first really hot summertime beach weekend raises temperatures into the 90s on Saturday and Sunday, don’t let the lemon keep you from taking a plunge to cool off.
At least 39 of the world’s 400-plus shark species are found off South Carolina. Most attacks are just tasting nips when a human thrashing in murky water is mistaken for prey, experts agree. Few nips occur, despite thousands and thousands of people in the water each year.
Serious wounds are rare, and South Carolina hasn’t had a fatal attack since the 1850s.
The shark that Dyson brought in Wednesday evening on the Isle of Palms beach was the biggest shark he’d ever caught, but not by that much. He’s brought in 7- and 8-footers at IOP and Sullivan’s Island. In fact, he gears up to target the big guys, fighting belt and all. This one was a hulk, all right.
“It was huge. It was huge,” said Dyson, 24, of Mount Pleasant. “It was bigger around than my kayak.”
Dyson had set the bait beyond the breakers and was casting a smaller rod for more bait down the beach when it struck. “I could hear the drag on my rod screaming,” he said.
He raced back to find line peeling off into the ocean. He grabbed hold, asked a teen biking past to hook him into the fighting belt and set the hook. The shark took some 500 yards of line before Dyson could turn him, he said. Once he got it back to the breakers, it turned and took another 100 yards before he brought it ashore.
It was, as he says, “a pretty freaking big shark.” He estimated the weight at 300 pounds.
The shark, in fact, was about as big as a lemon is likely to get. But it likely was somewhat short of the state record for a lemon, a 380-pounder caught off Hilton Head in 2010. The sharks, which got their name from the yellowish bown color of their skin, don’t get much longer than 10 or 11 feet.
“That species is one definitely found in shallow waters,” said Bryan Frazier, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources marine biologist. “They’re commonly found in the estuaries.”
Dyson released his shark, hoping to reel it in again “when she’s 200 more pounds and 2 feet bigger,” he said
Now don’t hyperventilate.
Lemons are, as Dyson said, “pretty docile sharks.” There have been 10 confirmed, unprovoked attacks by the species reported, said the Florida Museum of Natural History, and none of them fatal.
“The lemon shark does inhabit coastal waters which swimmers, surfers and divers commonly utilize. The low number of attacks by this species indicates that it is a minimal threat to humans,” the museum website said.
Dyson swims and surfs regularly at the spot where he caught the lemon. He wouldn’t think twice about it, he said. “Honestly, my bait was farther out than most people swim.”
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