The Legend of Old Hitler

Posted by on January 15th, 2011

Along the west coast of Florida, fisherman have been swapping stories for years about a monster hammerhead shark that goes by the name of “Old Hitler”. He is said to be between 20 and 25 feet long and lurks in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico between the Boca Grande Pass and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge near the entrance to Tampa Bay. However, there are reports of Old Hitler showing up from Homosassa to the Florida Keys. Running into Old Hitler is likely to end with cracked hulls, mangled propellers, and the loss of the 200 lb game fish you had on your line.

A standard great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds and their average life span is 20 to 30 years, but scientists have found some to live beyond age 50. The world record for the great hammerhead caught with rod and reel is 1280 lbs and 14 ½ feet, although there are other reports of larger sharks being pulled out of these Florida waters.

“The largest hammerhead ever pulled from these waters was a 17-foot, 1-inch, 1,386-pound monster that was caught using a chain, rope and an inflatable intertube off the Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island by Frank Cavendish and Ralph French in 1973. The shark, dubbed “Spiro,” was caught using a 14-pound manta ray as bait.”

Boca Grande Pass is located at the south end of Gasparilla Island and it is the deepest natural inlet on the Gulf of Mexico, reaching depths to approximately 80 feet. Aside from already being the deepest inlet on the Gulf, the Pass has some interesting geography including the Lighthouse Hole and the Coast Guard Hole. There are also supposed to be numerous ledges that undercut the rock and provide shelter and hiding spots.

The hammerheads pour into the Pass starting in April chasing their favorite meal and fishing’s favorite prize, the Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). Tens of thousands of tarpon congregate in the area from April through August, feeding day and night, as they prepare to spawn offshore. Boca Grande Pass attracts the tarpon due to the abundance of food and available cover, and they crowd into the deep holes in the pass by the hundreds. The giant schools of tarpon then attract an even bigger predator, hammerhead sharks.  As anybody fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass will attest, hammerheads love to steal tarpon from the anglers.

More Old Hitler after the jump!

(image: stevelewalready / Flickr)

The history behind Old Hitler has become muddled, but it appears that the sightings and run-ins began slightly before or during the beginning years of World War II. The shark was also supposed to be easily identified by the large gash in his dorsal fin.

“‘The legend revolved around one gigantic shark that had a large gash in its top fin, an injury it sustained after a rumored run-in with a mullet fisherman sometime in the early sixties. The fisherman struck the shark with a machete after the creature mauled a net full of fish and began bumping the 15-foot vessel with its flat head. The hammerhead swam away with the large knife still embedded in its dorsal fin.”

Some of the more fantastical tales tell of German U-Boats dropping a lab-made shark off in the gulf to terrorize Florida tourists. There are also tales that speak of swastikas tattooed or carved into Old Hitler’s side. In another version of the story a fisherman caught the shark when it was young and painted a swastika into the dorsal fin and released the shark. It has also been reported that the legend arose from the days during World War II when boat captains would radio the Coast Guard after spotting the shark and report that German U-Boats were invading the harbor.

More than likely, there are lots of “Old Hitler” sharks in the Gulf and every channel and inlet probably has their own Old Hitler that gets larger with every telling. However, believers contend that it may be possible for hammerheads to live 70 years and that Old Hitler still prowls the waters.

Research and Further Reading
[Fishdaddy Charter]
[On The Air TV]
[St Petersburg Times]
[Tampa Bay Online]
[Paranormal Romance Writers]

3 Responses to “The Legend of Old Hitler”

  1. Fisty La Rue Says:

    Holy yikes!

  2. Busterggi Says:

    Wouldn’t a catfish be a better Old hitler? At least it would have a moustach?

  3. poop Says:

    oh my god my friend cot him 2 days ago in the 90 feet drop hole