Beware sharks, says Popeye
By ADRIAN MILLER
SUMMER in the Clarence Valley is a time when thousands of people take to the beaches and rivers to enjoy the water sports Australians love.
Since the death of Sarah Whiley, who was mauled by bull sharks on Saturday at Stradbroke Island, there have been calls to increase shark patrols along Australia's eastern seaboard.
Swimmers do need to be vigilant, warns Palmers Island man, Popeye Law, who rates the Clarence River as dangerous for sharks. Popeye, who has been catching sharks for 40 years, said the river was so full of them he would not set foot in the water.
"I haven't seen a shark swim in the river yet, only dolphins, but they're there alright ? I wouldn't swim in this river for $100,000," he said.
And he would know, after catching more than 50 bronze whalers from practically his doorstep.
"I've caught a few sharks out here, right across from my house ? the last one was three and a half metres long," he said.
"Most of them I caught in the shallow water ? it's only about 10-15 feet (3m) deep."
Popeye said the sharks would swim as far upriver as Grafton, and this time of year was the worst for them.
"From October through to January they come in the river from the ocean to give birth to their young ones," he said
Popeye, who displays many a bronze whaler jaw bone in his front yard, said he kept them as a warning.
"A lot of people don't take any notice of you, they think you're a ratbag," he said.
Grafton man Wes Stevenson is one of many who regularly swim in the river.
"People have been swimming in the river for a long time and I've never heard of anyone being attacked," he said.