Say the name 'Old Hitler' around anyone with a history
of fishing the waters of Tampa Bay and they will immediately picture
a large (possibly 20' or better) Hammerhead shark.
Very much a legend but in fact a myth, no one fish could be responsible
for the untold number of stories that have helped build the lore.
A behemoth of a shark that haunted and hunted the waters of Tampa
Bay, especially around Egmont channel and the Skyway Bridge for many
Once the legend was born anyone hooking anything in the bay that was
too much for the tackle being used "had to have been" 'Old
Hitler'. Not to discredit anyone that has actually done battle with
or encountered a shark in the upper size ranges of their species
is widely known that large numbers of Hammerhead Sharks migrate or
travel with schools of tarpon and other migratory fishes. It is not
uncommon to see larger specimens making a snack out of 150 pound plus
To a giant shark, a hooked tarpon is like a white-bait
being fished for a snook, trout etc
Hammerheads and other large
sharks home in on hooked tarpon and there are probably as many stories
of tarpon anglers having their trophies being eaten in two or three
bites, as there are 'Old Hitler' encounters
Do you have any idea how big a 17-foot shark looks from
12 foot rowboat?
[To be continued]
Anyone who has comments or would like
to contribute to this
or other local fishing lore is welcome to send pictures and or
text to the e-mail address at the bottom of the page
Although this story is not directly
related to local fishing interests, at the time it was cause for some
local anglers to be a bit more cautious for a couple of days
A search is still underway for the actual published accounts of what
turned out to be nothing but a prank. (Anyone with information
on this is welcome to submit it)
What follows is the gist of the story without any factual data such
as names and dates
Sometime in the 1950's a couple of gents on Clearwater Beach with
too much time on their hands decided to have some fun with locals
and tourists alike. A sea-monster was born
After forming a mold, a massive concrete foot (claw) was poured and
manicured for their deception. Fitted with a stick handle the 50-pound
plus "stamp" was ready for action!
Once they had the tides in their favor the monster was born. Waking
many hours before daylight for two days running they carried the "stamp"
down on the beach and carefully made imprints in what was to resemble
the tracks of a giant creature. Made to appear as the monster came
out of the water, walked along the beach and disappeared again.
The buzz began with the earliest beachcombers that walked the beach
as the sun was just rising. Officials and Scientists alike were called
to the scene. Speculations grew and the story spread. So much was
made in such a short time the pranksters were unable to carry the
gag any further and admitted they were responsible!