A 4- to 5-foot blacktip shark caused a commotion Tuesday afternoon at the Cocoa Beach Pier, attracting a crowd of about 150 onlookers and forcing lifeguards to bar swimmers from the vicinity for about 45 minutes.
Local 6 news partner Florida Today reported that shortly after 3 p.m., a fisherman near the end of the pier hooked the shark, which occasionally emerged from the waves during a prolonged battle near the pier pilings.
"The shark was fighting and surfacing. They were just reeling and reeling and reeling down at the end of the pier," said eyewitness Jessica Simanski, of Cocoa.
"A guy had yelled, 'It's a hammerhead!' and people were freaking out," Simanski said.
Eventually, the exhausted shark was netted. A Brevard County Ocean Rescue lifeguard waded into waist-deep water and hauled the shark to shore.
Lifeguards and others worked to try to remove the hook from the shark's mouth, said Lee Nessel, Brevard County Fire Rescue spokeswoman. Afterward, Lt. Dakota James, a four-year lifeguard veteran, dragged the blacktip back into the sea by its tail.
Simanski said the shark appeared "zonked out a little bit," and James had to wave it around in the water a bit before it swam away.
Simanski was sunbathing just off the south side of the pier with her 1-year-old son Jionni Sutera and three relatives visiting from Boston: mother Vickie Simanski; brother Dylan Simanski; and cousin Ryleigh Porter.
"It was exciting. I've never, ever experienced anything like that before. For my family to get to see that ... my cousin was just in awe," Jessica Simanski said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, blacktip sharks often come inshore in large schools, particularly when hunting Spanish mackerel.