Eight-foot Sharks Netted in Potomac River

Two big sharks were fished out of the Potomac River this week. Is the U.S. capital swimming with predators?

By David Braun

The Potomac, fondly nicknamed the “Nation’s River” because it flows through Washington, D.C., is known for its hazards and treacherous currents. But if you can navigate those, and slip past the politicians, there may be something else lurking in the water: big sharks.

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Photo of the shark caught in the Potomac courtesy of Christy Henderson, Buzz’s Marina.

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Fisher Willy Dean caught an eight-foot shark in the Potomac River this week, NBC 4, a local television station, reported.

“Dean put out a net Monday at Cornfield Harbor in the Potomac three miles north of Point Lookout with hopes of catching cow-nosed rays for a Solomons Island Marina biologist. When he checked Monday night, everything seemed normal. But when he checked again Tuesday morning, he made a startling discovery,” NBC 4 said.

“In the net was an eight-foot-long shark. He said it was a bull shark. According to National Geographic, experts consider them to be ‘the most dangerous sharks in the world,'” NBC 4 added. (Read more about what Nat Geo says about bull sharks.)

Read the NBC 4 story.

Dean said the shark has been frozen while he considers what to do with it. He may mount it.

“I would not say it is common to catch sharks in the Potomac River but they are in the [Chesapeake] Bay. They feed on rays and are able to travel into fresher water which is why you see them in rivers,” said Christy Henderson, who made the photographs of the shark on this page. She and her husband Michael Henderson own Buzz’s Marina, which is near the Potomac mouth on the Maryland side of the Bay.

“The fisherman (Willy Dean) ties up at my pier and he called me and asked me to take pictures for him. I take pictures of everything that moves as a hobby and he knows that. I put new pictures on my web page daily so I am always asking people to let me know about interesting catches,” Henderson said in an email to Nat Geo News Watch.

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Photo of fisher Willy Dean (left) and the shark he caught in the Potomac courtesy of Christy Henderson, Buzz’s Marina.


Second eight-foot shark found in Potomac on same day

The same day another shark was found in another pound net a few miles up the Potomac River in Tall Timbers, Henderson added. “It was 8′ 3″, according to Thomas Crowder, the fisherman who owned that net.”

“This summer we also had a humpback whale visit us in the bay, so really you never know what you will find here.”

Sharks aren’t the only big visitors to that part of the Chesapeake. “This summer we also had a humpback whale visit us in the bay, so really you never know what you will find here,” Henderson said.

The shark caught by Dean was identified by Ken Kaumeyer, curator of estuarine biology at the Calvert Marine Museum, who was with Dean when he found the shark in his net, so he has confirmed that it is indeed a bull shark, Henderson said. “They were collecting rays for the Marine Museum exhibit when it was found.”

Related National Geographic News story:

Great Whites May Be Taking the Rap for Bull Shark Attacks

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Pat Ford

    why weren’t these beautiful sharks relocated back to ocean waters instead of to let them die??

  • Lori Montgomery-Noblitt

    Please be so kind to remove all of the SHARKS before Nations Tri Sept 11th. There will be enough of us trying to find a space to swim…. God made all creatures big and small and I do appreciate them all…. Just prefer to not be swimming with them… D.C sushi!!!!!!

  • Cassidy Pokallus

    It is a very good thing I did not fall in on a boat tour on the Potomac River two months ago. I would’ve been thrashing in the water and that would’ve made me shark bait! It’s a good thing I didn’t know there were sharks in there before the trip.

  • Megan

    perhaps you should start a fund.

  • Meg

    Funded by whom?

  • Jim Hall

    Point Lookout is down at the mouth of the Potomac about 100 river miles from DC so it’s not like these were terrorizing the Capitol. They were at the food rich mouth of the estuary where you might expect to find big fish hanging around eating smaller fish. Let’s keep it real, Nat Geo.

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