FORT MYERS, Fla. – Justin Stuller was looking forward to relaxing in the Florida Keys — fishing, lobstering and swimming with his wife, kids, extended family and friends.
Until a shark bit him.
Stuller, 38, now sports two dozen stitches and a small limp after he tangled with an eight-foot lemon shark Wednesday.
Stuller said he has encountered sharks before on similar trips. Some have even snatched fish he speared as he swam back to the boat, but he's never been bitten before. At least, not by a shark.
"I did get bit by an alligator," he said. And a spider, he said, showing the scars of both on his leg.
An experienced diver — certified since age 12 — Stuller had spotted an injured fish in the rocks under water and went to retrieve it.
"It was too small, not a keeper," he said Sunday.
He went to put it back into the rocks and away from his wife and kids who were swimming nearby.
"I put it in a hole, and right before I surfaced, wham," he said of the attack. "I felt the skin more than the shark. It rolled me over and I saw it swimming away."
Stuller said nobody noticed anything at first he until he surfaced and started yelling.
Friend and coworker Jake Dorn, 24, was swimming nearby.
Stuller's first thought was for his family and friends. "My wife and kids were swimming," he said. "So they got them out of the water."
On the boat, Stuller, his wife and friends got a look at the five- to six-inch bite just below his knee as well as a few other puncture marks on his leg.
He said his wife, Kristen, was looking over his shoulder when he took his hands away from the wound and let out a gasp when she saw the damage. Her first words, he said, were, "We're going to the hospital."
Until that point, Stuller said, they had been having a fantastic time, hitting the state limit of spiny lobsters.
Stuller said he makes sure to keep a complete medical and first-aid kit on his boat and had plenty of gauze and pressure bandages to stem the bleeding.
"I tied it off and actually lost very little blood," he said. "It was pretty deep, but no bone. I was very lucky, no tendons."
Everyone stayed calm, he said, even his 4-month-old, 2-year-old and 10-year-old children.
"I was thinking, 'I've got three kids on the boat, I have to stay calm,'" his wife said. In fact, the kids thought it was kind of cool to see a shark.
After getting stitched up at Florida Keys Memorial Hospital, Stuller said they went back out the next day with him as captain, not a diver.
"He was 'Mr. Grumpy Pants' the second day," his wife laughed.
Dorn said they are not usually worried about sharks. "I've been lobstering here for years," he said. "You see sharks and they usually swim around you."
Stuller said he thinks the shark was interested in the fish he had just stowed on the seabed.
"I've got nothing against the shark, no ill will," he said. "Right place, wrong time. I was more angry I couldn't go in the water the next day."
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida man once bitten by alligator gets bit by 8-foot lemon shark