The first time in Key Largo, 15 years ago. End of a long day and I'm drifting across a flat with incoming tide and easterly breeze pushing me slowly westward and back to shore, sun about to set in the west and my kayak was casting a small shadow just big enough that a leopard ray wanted to follow me, right next to kayak. Just guessing but ray must have liked being out of the sun and just stayed right in my shadow not more than a foot or two away. I notice a huge sharks dorsal fin from over a 100 yards away that is on the same current line I'm drifting on, slowly coming towards me. Knew it was huge but no idea how big until it got much closer. It looked like it was sniffing the water as its head was almost above the surface and it was slowly moving its head back and forth as it kept coming. Don't know what I was thinking but I threw topwater bait at it and immediately hoped I didn't get bit. Got line back in and now its less than twenty yards away and it is huge. I swear its dorsal fin was a foot and a half above my gunnel as it touched my kayak and almost immediately went berserk. Its tail thrashed my hull as it attacked that ray right next to me.
Second time was in Flamingo and I've just hooked a trout and can tell by the fight that a shark is after it. Trout immediately comes to surface as I see huge wake right behind it. I reel as fast as I can to take slack out and just as shark comes to surface jaws opened wide I jerked trout completely out of the water and sling shot it up in the air and right towards me. Trout hits bow of my kayak at water line as shark must have seen it in the air because it seemed it exploded on trout the same instance it hit kayak. Shark hit so forcefully that only my stern was in contact with water and the rest of my kayak went airborne as I landed almost 90 degrees from direction I was sitting before. It was a miracle I didn't get thrown off kayak as kayak hit the water in such a way that it drove me down into seat and not out either side.
Third time and scariest by far was at night in Flamingo when there was so many explosions going on and mullet showering all around me that I tried to hide up against shore until things quieted down. Huge school of mullet flying right at me, jumping over kayak on to the sand bank and the rest scooting in mud under me as I can feel them digging and panicked as monster shark torpedoes me right at water line a foot ahead of where I'm sitting. Enough light that night to see every tooth in its head. Two hours drive to get there, 10 minutes on the water, two hours drive back home. No mas.
Went back to the same spot during daylight hours the next week and landed a 200 lb bullshark. A guide watching the whole thing asked if he could get my hook out as I was about to cut leader with hook still in it. He let me in his boat and I got this picture of him wrestling with it.
Hard to tell how big it was from the picture as that is its pectoral fin. Guide is who told me it was that size. I promise it looked even bigger from my kayak.
Can't tell you how lucky I have been with not loosing a hand when sharks have snatched snook as I was reaching down to pull them out of the water. To see a 15 lb snook get chopped in half in a split second is unnerving. Seeing how fast a shark can move when feeding will make you very careful about handling your catch. I came real close to getting bit while holding a small shark early on, I don't like messing with sharks unless its just to get their picture.
A good rule of angling philosphy is not to interfere with another fisherman's ways of being happy, unless you want to be hated.
Zane Grey, Tales of Fishes, 1919https://vimeo.com/73372194