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Playing with Jaws! Florida fisherman PETS 16-foot Great White shark off Tampa coast

One group of Floridians who went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico got an up-close look at a great white shark that circled their boat for three hours - so close in fact that they could pet it.

A 16ft great white shark was filmed swimming within inches of a boat and biting the motor as four people were fishing some 65 miles off the coast of Tampa last week.

Erika Almond of St. Petersburg was with Tyler Levesque, Peter Lambie, and Gretchen Cooper on Almond’s 34ft boat, ‘Offshore Therapy,’ on Friday.

The four were trying to hook amberjack fish some 65 miles southwest of Tampa in 200ft of water in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Suddenly, they were shocked to notice a large shark swim toward their boat.

Tyler Levesque is seen above petting a 16ft great white shark while he and three others went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico some 65 miles off the coast of Tampa, Florida, on Friday

Levesque is seen above reaching out as the great white shark approaches on Friday

The brave captain manages to push the shark away from the boat

The great white shark then swims away without incident but not before eating some chum thrown to it 

‘It was breathtaking,’ Almond told WTVT-TV.

‘t came right up and took a chunk out of one of our motors.’

Almond added: ‘It's not unusual, we expect sharks when you're fishing and chumming like that but what made this unique was it was about a 14- to 16-foot great white shark.

‘We couldn't believe what we were seeing.’

At one point, the shark was seen coming within inches of one of the fishermen. 

The huge shark is seen above swimming toward the boat in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday

At one point, the shark tries to take a bite out of the boat's motor (above)

Fortunately the shark just grazed the motor with its teeth and no real damage was done

‘It was breathtaking,’ Almond told WTVT-TV.

‘t came right up and took a chunk out of one of our motors.’

Almond added: ‘It's not unusual, we expect sharks when you're fishing and chumming like that but what made this unique was it was about a 14- to 16-foot great white shark.

‘We couldn't believe what we were seeing.’

At one point, the shark was seen coming within inches of one of the fishermen.

The shark is seen above as it swam by their boat off the coast of Florida on Friday

‘It's not unusual, we expect sharks when you're fishing and chumming like that but what made this unique was it was about a 14- to 16-foot great white shark,' Erika Almond of St. Petersburg, Florida, said

The shark is seen approaching the boat from the rear on Friday

Erika Almond (left) of St. Petersburg was with Tyler Levesque, Peter Lambie, and Gretchen Cooper (right) on Almond’s 34ft boat, ‘Offshore Therapy,’ on Friday

Levesque, the captain, is seen reaching out and touching the shark as it swam by.

The humans were nice enough to indulge the shark’s hunger as they threw some chum into the water.

‘At one point he even rolled over like he wanted us to rub his belly,’ Almond said.

Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish on Earth and can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh over 5,000 pounds.

Although frequently portrayed as 'mindless killers' - mainly due to blockbuster movies like Steven Spielberg's Jaws - great white sharks are actually very sensitive, intelligent creatures which have little interest in eating humans.

According to National Geographic, great whites are highly adaptive predators, and their mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows, and they have an exceptional sense of smell to detect prey.

They even have organs that can sense the tiny electromagnetic fields generated by animals.

Their main prey items include sea lions, seals, small toothed whales, and even sea turtles, and carrion.

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, it is quite rare to see sharks in the Gulf.

‘We knew it was a special moment,’ said Almond.

‘It's truly an amazing experience to see all the things we see offshore and you never know what you're going to find.’

Wildlife experts said that more sharks in the water bodes well for the oceanic environment.

‘The white sharks are migrating right now to Florida's warmer waters and their population is definitely growing, which is good for the ocean,’ said Dr. Robert Hueter of the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. 

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