Mar 13 2009
Craig Clasen was hunting yellow fin tuna with fellow fisherman Cameron Kirkconnell, photographer D.J Struntz (DJ Strunz’s portfolio) and film maker Ryan McInnis in the Gulf of Mexico when a 12 ft. Tiger Shark aggressively approached and circled Ryan McInnis in deep waters south of the Mississippi River’s mouth. Regarded by many as two of the world’s best free diving spearfishermen, Craig and Cameron have come into contact with thousands of sharks.
Craig Clasen immediately swam to his friend with his spear gun.
‘I positioned myself between Ryan and the shark and I tried to watch it for a second, hoping it would pass us by,’ explained 32-year-old Mr Clasen.
‘I noticed that the shark was getting tighter and tighter and just kept trying to get a back angle on us and behaving in an aggressive manner.
‘The shark made a roll and looked like it was going to charge us so I just went ahead and took the conservative route and put a shaft through its gills.
‘Cameron and I have been around sharks for years and we all have a lot of experience with them but this encounter had a different feel to it.
‘Down in my core I really felt the shark was there to feed. I didn’t want it to come to that.’
Craig spent nearly two hours wrestling with the giant 12ft shark, spearing it seven times and even attempting to drown the beast before eventually finishing it off with a long blade knife.
‘Once I shot it in the gills I felt a moral obligation to finish the job,’ says Craig.
‘I didn’t want it to go on any longer than it had to. I shot the fish like I would do any other fish and worked it up closer and did my best to kill it as humanely as possible.
‘I speared it in the gills which I knew would kill it and from that I tried to put a shaft into its brain as quickly as possible.
‘I shot it six times in the head with a spear and I wasn’t having much luck – it was a slow drawn out process.
‘Sharks are so resilient and so tough from millions of years of evolution they are just survivors.
‘The best way and quickest way to finish the job and kill the shark and recover it was to get a rope around its tail, drag it from the back of the boat and attempt to drown it.
‘In the end we had put a knife its skull once I got lose enough to it and use a long blade knife even after trying to drown it.’
When I wrote this post over a year ago, I had no idea it would garner such a big reaction and so strong opinions. Ryan McInnis, the photographer at the incident, recently discovered the post and left a comment and his reaction. As for everyone else, please keep it civil. I will delete any flame comments, so far I’ve had to delete multiple comments. Ryan, thanks for your comment and for clarifying the story.
Here’s Ryan’s comment reprinted from below:
Wow… I stumbled across this thread today and am amazed that 2 years after the incident there is still discussion about it. I’ll try to be brief:
- Spearfishing is the most ethical and sustainable way to provide seafood for oneself. We were there to take tuna and wahoo.
- We were also there to capture video and images of a new product line for a company. Businesses need promotional material of their gear in action.
- There was a combined 100 years of ocean experience in the water at the time this happened. 2 of us are from North Carolina where sharks are present on EVERY dive. I personally have spent hours outside a cage with big great whites. In other words, we know sharks.
- Our boat was over 50 yards away when this happened, getting out of the water would have been the first option of course. But this event happened faster than the boat could get to us, and swimming away from an aggressive sharks is the last option.
- Once the decision had been made and the first shot fired (which was a mortal shot), there was no other choice but to finish the fish. They are tough and yes it took many more shots to end the struggle. We took pictures and video because the initial danger was over.
- The mood was more than somber and the event cast a dark shadow on what was otherwise a great trip. Killing a shark is an awful thing, and this was the first time in all of our years that it had been necessary.
- One of us was working on a story with Outside Magazine, they ran a photo as ‘what you hope never happens’… then the national media caught it (10 months later) and before we knew it wild rumors and lies about the event began to spread.
And here I am today, still trying to explain why this happened. What got lost in all of this is that I was nearly attacked by a fish twice my size and my buddy came to my rescue. It’s no different than a grizzly bear in Alaska being shot for charging a hiker. It’s terrible but it’s part of sharing the outdoors with the natural residents.
We don’t hate sharks but we do love spearfishing. We did not benefit from this event at all, quite the opposite.
RM, underwater videographer
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