Itasca County shark? A mystery unsolved

The tiger shark jaw recovered from the Mississippi River near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. (PHOTO: Minnesota DNR)

Itasca County boasts plenty of critters that could eat you. Bears. Mosquitos. Turkey buzzards. But until now no one’s ever worried about a shark.

Photo submitted to “Fishesota” FB page

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported May 17 about a father and son duo who fished a tiger shark jaw out of the Mississippi River near Grand Rapids. Tiger sharks can only survive in salt water.

From the Aimee Blanchette story in the Star Tribune:

“When we saw it coming up, we had no idea what it was,” said Joey Piskel, who watched his dad, Joe Piskel, reel it in. “We thought it was a sheep skull or cow jaw until we saw the teeth.”

Joe, 59, of Grand Rapids, and Joey, 32, of Bemidji, brought the 9- to 10-inch jawbone to the Grand Rapids Department of Natural Resources office to be identified. A fisheries biologist there said the jawbone is from a sand tiger shark, a salt water species that can’t survive in fresh water.

Well then, how’d it get there?

“I couldn’t speculate how it got there, but it’s doubtful it got there on its own,” said Cheri Zeppelin, information offer for the DNR. “The dams that are downstream from this don’t allow for that kind of fish passage.”

The implication would be that someone dropped a tiger jaw shark jaw into the river as a prank, or perhaps by accident(?). And that’s certainly possible.

It was interesting to read the speculation at fish talk sites like the Fishesota Facebook page, where the Star Tribune apparently found out about the story. In the chatter, commenters said that bull sharks are known to travel hundreds or even more than 1,000 miles up the Mississippi.

However bull sharks are more adept at surviving fresh water than tiger sharks.

But barring someone shedding light on this mystery we won’t know for sure how the Piskels found this shark jaw. Thus, the Itasca County Shark Alert System has been moved off zero for the first time since the Pleistocene Age.

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