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First-time author’s account of life as a Florida shark hunter

By Staff | Oct 27, 2010

Author Bill Goldschmitt began a journal in 1970, which eventually became "Sharkman Of Cortez," recently released by Ocean Life Publishing. Goldschmitt describes the book as "The Old Man and The Sea" meets "Jaws."

What kind of man goes out on a 22-foot-long boat — all by himself — to catch 16-foot sharks?

Bill Goldschmitt. That’s who.

Over the course of four decades, Goldschmitt worked as the captain of fishing vessels off of Florida’s gulf coast. More than 6,000 caught sharks later, the Sarasota resident has finally put his personal account of some of the most memorable “fish tales” into a book, which actually began when he started keeping a journal in 1970.

The result is the recently released softcover memoir, “Sharkman Of Cortez,” which Goldschmitt himself describes as, “Where ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ meets ‘Jaws.'”

“I found work on local fishing boats baiting crab traps and working gill nets, but I yearned to hunt sharks,” said the first-time author, who at 17 ran away from his home in Pittsburgh, Pa. before finding work on a crab boat out of Siesta Key, Fla. “I was a teenager who had neither fear nor respect for them although they often fed on our catch, ripping apart our traps and nets. At first, I listened to the shark ‘experts’ (marine biologists). That sharks were misunderstood. Not dangerous. Their aggression was just toward other fish, that’s all. Although the commercial fishermen I worked with thought otherwise.”

The cover of Goldschmitt and Mangani's novel, 346 pages filled with stories about shark fishing and the life of a Florida sea captain.

According to Goldschmitt, 60, the reason he wrote “Sharkman Of Cortez” was to share his life experiences and “the true nature of sharks” which have not been accurately presented in other books or in the news media.

The author states very frankly that he — more than anyone else — knows “the facts” about sharks. He also claims that many shark attacks could be prevented, and the fact that others perceive mankind as menace to the shark… not the other way around.

“I found out first-hand the horror sharks could inflict. My German Shepard was ripped apart by a hammerhead one day while my girlfriend and I swam in shallow water off Siesta Beach,” he explained. “From that moment, sharks meant death.”

At first, driven by his own killer instinct, Goldschmitt realized that he has what it takes to hunt down sharks. Later, through extensive documentation and ingenuity, he pioneers catching sharks live and transporting them to area aquariums, including Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, where the relationship between shark fisherman and scientists remains quite turbulent to this day.

In the novel, co-authored by Goldschmitt’s wife, Marisa Mangani, the longtime sea captain shares stories about hunting and catching sharks off Florida’s coast, the political incorrectness of the fishing industry and ongoing efforts to protect the species.

“Catch-and-release is the new sport and all public sympathy goes to the poor shark,” he added. “You’ll read ‘Sharkman Of Cortez,’ learn about Florida’s fishing past and wonder, ‘What happened?'”

Thus far, reviews of his “sometimes very adult” tale have been mostly positive, with Steven Pavon, writer for The Shark Con, offering, “His unbelievable personal encounters with sharks puts us right on the boat beside him, while his battles on land with love give a personal view of the life.”

“Sharkman Of Cortez,” releasd by Ocean Life Publishing, is available at island book retailers and online at www.amazon.com. For additional information, visit www.sharkmanofcortez.com.