- Look for gravel on the bottom, shovel in, dig, lift, drop into a floating sifter, shake out the sand. Place your hand underneath the sifter and lift up slightly, look for the teeth. There they are!
- Place the teeth into a collection jar, get on to the next shovel-full.
- It’s not unusual to find several hundred shark teeth treasures in a single outing of just a few hours n the right spot. The right spot can be anywhere there is gravel on the bottom. Dig there. No teeth? Move on a few feet away, try again.
By Forrest Fisher
Buck called me in the afternoon. It was a Tuesday. He said, “Hey dude, I was thinking about taking my rig out of Arcadia and heading upriver for a shark tooth dig. Wanna go?” Of course, I said, “SURE! What time?!” He said, “Can you be at my house around 830ish? Then we’ll head out.” He added, “Just bring your big sifter and a shovel.” I said, “I’ll pack us some water and a sandwich for when we take a break; sound OK?” Buck replied, “Yea, that’s great.”
Buck was waiting at the door when I arrived, but I asked, “Can I see your teeth collection one more time?” He said, “Sure, come on in.” Inside his living room, there are two giant glass cases, each standing about 6-feet tall. Each has several glass shelves, and each shelf has several mounted picture-style frames of Megalodon shark teeth. Some are shiny, others are dull in color, some are black, others gray, others brownish. I could only simply say, “Wow, these are fantastic.” Buck said, “OK, let’s go.”
Buck is an 80-year-old man who thinks and acts like a 40-year old. Buck is a cancer survivor, doesn’t smoke or drink. Still, he occasionally shares colorful word expressions, especially when he is driving. He says, “Florida drivers just don’t follow the rules. No turn signals. No stopping at stop signs. No common sense, for the most part, they pass on the right! Speeding too, and the sheriffs must be blind or lazy. They let it all happen right in front of them. I’ve watched it. I make up new words when these things happen, so please forgive those moments.” He smiled. “Really bugs me when folks here don’t follow the traffic safety laws. I’m from New York near Albany, but I’ve been here more than 10 years now, and it is worse than ever.” I changed the subject and asked how far it was. He smiled again and said, “OK, I get it. Time for me to stop walloping new words. Sip your coffee.” No kidding, I was laughing so hard. This was honest fun.
Buck is a tough old guy that doesn’t shirk his responsibilities to get the job done, whatever it is. He welded up a trailer to hold his 14-foot shark tooth hunting boat, then equipped it with a homemade 4-stroke air-cooled engine from Harbor Freight and attached a custom-made 10-foot shaft and propeller. Buck added a steel guard for the propeller after the first time out a few years back, so the prop could move the boat over very shallow water at high speed. He said, “I prefer to stay in the boat until I get to where I’m going. Hey, I’m getting a little older and getting into the water in the shallow rapids. You know, there could be potholes in the phosphorous bottom around the river. I could twist an ankle – that would hamper my digging style.” Yea, he was grinning all the way. He likes the power of that homemade boat engine sounding loud enough to scare the gators on both banks into submission.
We launched on the steep bank at Arcadia Park near the American Legion Post. The Peace River was really low. The gauge at the bridge said 1.3 feet. Check the gage online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/02296750/#parameterCode=00065&period=P7D.
As we headed upriver, we waved to campers set up along the river on the west bank at Peace River Campground (https://peacerivercampground.com/). Just before that, we noticed one long gator that liked to sit in the sun on the eastern bank. He was there on the glistening, hot white sand, about 25 feet up the bank from the river. A beautiful critter. That gator just continued his sleeping lesson as we headed on by. Never even opened his eyes. “He’s tired,” said Buck. “Hope he stays up there, but no matter, we are going upriver another mile or so.” Then we came to an ancient railroad bridge, a trestle, with logs, all jammed along the structure’s base in several places. At relatively high speed, we skimmed over the tree branches with Buck throttling the motor down as we crossed the spot where the prop had to be lifted out of the water. It was a manual effort to do so, but Buck had no issue with it. He was grinning and talking to me at the same time. “Darn branches! No snakes to ward off, though. That’s good.” No fear in this guy.
In about 10 minutes, we slowed up and pulled over near the base of a large swamp oak that had fallen into the river. The bark was mostly worn off from the current, but the tree was more than 100 feet long. “You’ll like this spot. It has been a treasure finder place for me and my girlfriend.” Buck smiles and grins a lot for good reasons. He is an example of an age-old, golden-era American that is hard to find these days. He will address any issue just for a friendly talk based on what he understands about it. A fun guy. Someone who never stops learning from common sense and he builds on it with every hour of the day.
We moored the boat to shore and stepped into the river. It was about waist deep at the start but shallowed up as we moved back toward the middle of the river. I was using a square-ended shovel, he was using a sharp-nose shovel and a large, heavy sea flea rake that he bought at Bass Pro. He said, “I dig a few spots in the gravel bottom areas and sift each dig. Then, I rake that same area and hope to drag in anything that fell off or couldn’t fit onto the shovel blade. You know, that’s my method. I have found many, many Meg’s in this area here. I’m hoping you find one today.” I was still looking for my first Meg after 3-years of digging the Peace River and scouring the Gulf Coast beaches. I did not have a drag device, though. Next time.
Over the next 3-hours, we talked to about 10 kayakers paddling upstream and downstream. We were about two miles from the campsites mentioned earlier. We found new gravel areas in the spot where we had stopped and probed with our dig and sift gear. We watched one water snake cross the river, and off he went, wanted nothing to do with us people. Buck said, “That’s the way it is most of the time, with gators too, unless it is mating season. The critters leave us alone. We like it that way.”
There were no Megalodon teeth this time, but we brought back several hundred beautiful, sharp-edge shark teeth. Primarily Bull/Dusky shark teeth, though several Mako, Tiger and Snaggle-Tooth (Hemipristis) shark teeth fossils were in the treasure pile too. A good friend and shark tooth expert and his wife, Tim and Jeanie (https://www.ebay.com/usr/sharkartguy?_trksid=p2047675.m3561.l2559), have shared that most of the shark teeth in the Peace River originate from the Miocene era (5-25 million years ago). They are genuinely ancient fossils. One reason why going on these river adventures is so exciting. We are looking at history from so long ago. Tim says, “We retired in SWFL to golf and fish, which we did for the first six weeks. Then we discovered shark teeth on the beach. The first thing we did was sell the golf clubs and spend less time fishing so we could collect shark teeth. WE LOVE SHARK TEETH! There are a lot of us out there like Tim and Jeanie and Buck. Me too. Buck is not a guide, Tim neither, but they love to share the fun of shark tooth hunting with folks they meet wherever they are. I was lucky to meet both of these folks through casual circumstances. Tim will give away shark tooth necklaces to the kids looking for teeth in the surf on the beach. Quite a “hello traveler” gesture.
With his dig, sift, and drag method, Buck has done well.
A boat journey in any float craft will provide a beautiful experience, as giant cypress trees, colorful birds, and butterflies abound. The moments afloat are unforgettable.
That handsome 10-foot alligator was still in the same elevated sand spot as we neared the boat launch on our way back. Not more than 300 yards upstream, several dozen camper folks were sitting in the river, on the bottom of 1-foot deep water. They were sifting gravel in the river near the spot locals call the “cliffs” with tiny shovels. It is a shallow area where the water in the river drops about 2-feet from the upstream to the downstream side of the rapids. They said, “We’re doing great!” Happy shark tooth hunters are a good sign to try that spot next time.
Of course, anyone can hunt for shark teeth in the Peace River. Access is mostly near the boat launch areas (https://myfwc.com/boating/boat-ramps-access/). Besides Arcadia, there are several other boat launch access areas including Brownsville, Zolfo Springs, Wauchula and others.
For our efforts, I weighed our shark tooth finds to realize we had nearly 14 ounces of shark tooth treasure in the jar. Not bad for a 3-hour effort.
Good luck to all.