Facebook shark

This screenshot of the "Real Florida hunting and fishing" Facebook page shows Lutz resident Joseph Wilson holding a tiger shark in the Chassahowitzka River. Two men were cited for illegally taking a shark; though Wilson was not involved, he said this photo has caused him grief.

Two men are facing a court date after hauling a tiger shark up the Chassahowitzka River on Saturday and posing for pictures at the headspring before cleaning it, according to numerous social media postings and Florida game officials.

And a 22-year-old man from Lutz who frequents the Chazz and had nothing to do with the illegal catch has now caught the ire of thousands thanks to a photo of him standing in 2 feet of river holding the big fish in his arms, its tail still attached by rope to a boat.

“People are chewing me a new one right now,” Joseph Wilson said in a Chronicle interview Monday. “I’m an animal lover. I would never do anything to hurt one.”

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Florida Wildlife Commission officials said they issued notices to appear in court to two individuals for illegal taking of a specific species of shark. Their identities were not released.

“The FWC is aware of the incident that took place over the weekend on the Chassahowitzka River involving a tiger shark,” FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said in a statement. “The FWC takes this very seriously and is grateful to everyone who reported this incident. Tiger sharks are prohibited from harvest in state waters.”

Wilson said he and friends were in the Chassahowitzka head spring near the boat ramp when they saw a boat come in dragging the tiger shark.

“I’ve never seen one before,” he said. “He had a rope tied to its tail and it was still in the water. I said, ‘Can I take a picture of it?’, and he said, ‘Sure.’ I probably picked it up for about 10 seconds and then I put it back in the water.”

He posted the photo on Facebook and it wasn’t long before the social media attacks began. Someone shared the photo with the “Real Florida hunting and fishing” Facebook page, which brought over 1,000 mostly negative comments and 6,000 shares.

Wilson said he then learned that taking a tiger shark is illegal and, while playing no role in that, he nonetheless was upset.

“I called FWC myself,” he said. “I was scared to death. I’m not a troublemaker. I love marine wildlife.”

Wilson will not be charged, Parker said.

Anyone with additional information about this incident is asked to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com. You can remain anonymous.

For more information about sharks, go to: https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/sharks.

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com. To view more of his stories, go to www.tinyurl.com/y3bakm6w.