The City of Anna Maria can stop fishermen from using the city's beaches to fish for sharks in the waters off Anna Maria, but it can't stop the sharks from using the waters off Anna Maria.
That's what local fisherman Andy Haynes said after learning that Commissioner Duke Miller was proposing an ordinance banning shark fishing from Anna Maria's beaches (The Islander, Dec. 10).
"You can take us off the beach and out of the water, but you can't take the sharks out of the water," said Haynes.
The shark-fishing flap erupted after Mayor SueLynn received some complaints that shark remains had been left on the beach near the Spruce Street beach access and the shark fishermen were chumming the waters to attract sharks.
"We're not chumming," said Haynes, who usually fishes the site with a few friends. "That's a lie. We've been fishing this spot for sharks for the past three years and we never chum, and this is the first time anyone has raised any objection to our fishing."
He claimed the entire brouhaha started Thanksgiving weekend when some visitors to the Island saw the remains of a shark left on the beach and called the mayor.
Those shark remains were not left by him or his friends, Haynes said.
"This is all about tourism, not us," said Haynes. "The city is just concerned that the sharks will scare away the tourists. Well, the sharks are out there, whether we're fishing for them or not.
"You can go to any beach in Florida and find sharks just offshore and find people fishing for those sharks," he claimed.
If the city passes an ordinance banning shark fishing, Haynes said he and his fellow fishermen will just fish from the City Pier or move down the beach outside the city limits.
"It's just a shame, because this was an isolated incident of someone leaving some remains on the beach and someone complained and the city got involved," Haynes noted.
He said he and his friends usually catch black-tip sharks, and if they're too small, they put them back in the water.