- April 23, 2014
Rob Metz wasn’t always the “Shark Guy.” Most of his adult life was spent working for big pharma in Chicago, but he’s been visiting Longboat Key since his teenage years.
“I came from a broken home and didn’t really feel like being with people a whole lot back then,” Metz said. “I spent weeks at a time in the water on Longboat Key.”
At 54, Metz had financially been on the rise for 13 years. He created and sold a biotechnology company that targets rare diseases, but he became disenchanted with the corporate atmosphere.
“I seek peace and serenity, and I want to make people happy,” he says. “I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to start my own thing, and we’re going to do stuff right.’”
So, Metz bought a house on Longboat Key and the Shark Guy was born. He now offers shark fishing excursions from the shores of local beaches. It depends on the weather and tides as to where the fishing spot is that day, but it’s hassle-free.
Metz hauls the poles, bait, chairs and beverages to the beach. He also walks the baited rod out to the sand bar, so he can cast it into the shark zone. A regular cast from shore won’t catch a shark. But with the Shark Guy, guests don’t even have to get their feet wet to reel in a 4-foot shark. Bells are attached to each pole, so when a bell rings, it’s time to stand up and reel.
Metz recently shared what it is about sharks that fascinates him.
"I grew up catching cownose rays, whiting, pompano and snook off Longboat Key, but one day I thought about trying to catch something larger. Any fisherman likes to catch a sizable fish, and I thought there’s got to be sharks out there."
"When the rays come by here and are migrating in the hundreds or thousands, the bull sharks come in closer because their favorite food in the world are those cownose rays. When you see an explosion in the water, that’s a bull shark that’s come 20 feet offshore to nail some of them."
"When you pull the shark up, everybody wants to take videos and pictures. If the shark’s been out of the water for a minute, we’ll go back to aerate the shark, then we’ll finish videos. We have a 100% success rate. No fish we’ve ever caught has been harmed."
"Blacktip, sand shark and spinner sharks are 3-4½ feet long. It’s about a 10- to 15-minute fight, sometimes longer. They hit like a freight train. The fishing wagon has almost been dragged into the water about five times."
"People think that because Longboat Key is a sleepy little island, that there’s no sharks out here. We don’t get the bait out far enough to catch a 10-foot hammerhead, but there are sharks everywhere."
"I don’t swim an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. That’s why we meet at 3 p.m. It’s near sunset when they’re most active."
"No splashing in the water. Splashing is a big indicator of an animal that is struggling in the water, so you want to avoid any fast movements.
The hooks are our biggest worry out there. I was trying to take a hook out of a spinner shark and the barb of a treble hook got all the way into my finger. I had to snip it off and go to the hospital."
"They’ve proven at Mote Marine Laboratory that some sharks, such as blacktip sharks, can discern red tide when most other fish cannot. If they shoot a stream of regular water at blacktip sharks, they’ll swim in the middle. But if they shoot a stream of red tide water, they’ll move to the side. They’re not dying when everything else is."
"Sharks cleanse the marine ecosystem. Because they’re scavengers, they feed on dead fish. It’s also survival of the fittest. If there are cownose rays that are older or injured, they will take out the weakest link."
"The best spot on the beach for me is where there is a good combination of ability to catch the targeted fish and a beautiful sunset."