Maryland student has close encounter with great white shark

Was it Big Kahuna? That's just a guess after seeing a video of a shark circling a boat off the coast of Ocean City that was posted online by University of Maryland student Aaron Caplan.

Caplan, 19, said he was shark fishing with friends on July 30 about 5-6 miles off shore when a great white shark became curious about his boat. He estimated the shark was about 13-15 feet - a wee bit smaller than his 24-foot fishing boat.

"It got close enough that we identified it as a great white," he said in a phone interview Thursday, adding that he never expected to attract anything that big. "We actually got to pet it one of the times when it rubbed against the boat."

Caplan, who uploaded the video to YouTube and also to CNN iReport, said that the encounter lasted about an hour before the fish took off with the chum bag. (Perhaps he needed a little snack to enjoy #SharkWeek?)

The UM sophomore from Owings Mills is spending the summer in Ocean City working at the OC Fishing Center and fishing every chance he gets. He shrugged off the idea that "petting" a shark may not be so smart.

"We could tell that he was just trying to find food," Caplan said. "He was so majestic in the water. He was just a beautiful animal. I’m glad I did it – it was a once in a lifetime thing."

A nonprofit research group, Ocearch, tags and tracks the movement of sharks around the world. According to its Global Shark Tracker, a couple of sharks have been active off the coast of Ocean City this summer, including Big Kahuna and Septima - both tiger sharks. Septima was sighted earlier this month in Isle of Wight Bay.

Of course, the group hasn't tagged every fish in the sea, so Caplan's shark could be a newcomer. But let's not put out the welcome mat - and no petting allowed.




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