10/13/2011 12:49 pm ET | Updated Dec 13, 2011

CJ Wickersham, Bull Shark Attack Survivor, Discusses Scary Fishing Trip Off Florida's Coast

Not everyone endures a shark attack and lives to talk about it, but C.J. Wickersham is among the lucky ones, sharing his story on NBC's The Today Show.

A fishing expedition quickly turned into a rescue mission as six friends rushed Wickersham back to shore after a 9-foot-long bull shark clamped down on his leg.

The 21-year-old was in the water near his boat after spearfishing with friends off Florida's Anna Maria Island on September 24 when the shark attacked and momentarily pulled Wickersham underwater.

The bull shark bit down on Wickersham's upper thigh and "tore back flesh so deep it exposed his thigh bone," West Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson told the Herald Tribune.

Paramedics met Wickersham onshore and sent him to a nearby hospital via emergency helicopter, where he would later endure two surgeries and about 800 stitches, the Islander reports. Doctors said they were able to save the thigh muscle.

911 dispatcher Amy Todd received the call from Wickersham's friend Kiera Dunn as the group made their way back to land.

I turned to one of my fellow dispatchers and said, ‘This is real,’” Todd told the Bradenton Herald of her first shark bite emergency.

Wickersham's story has been told by several media outlets, including NBC's The Today Show and ABC's Good Morning America. He is the fifth shark-bite victim in Manatee County in more than 100 years, according to the Islander.

A spokesperson for PETA told the Bradenton Herald she was glad Wickersham would survive his injuries, but she expressed the organization's dissatisfaction with spearfishing.

"...We hope after this painful experience he will consider the terror and pain that fish feel when they are impaled and suffocated to death and consider taking up another pastime," Ashley Byrne told the newspaper.

Fishing fleets kill up to 70 million sharks per year, according to an annual report by the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. In comparison, about five people per year are killed by sharks.

Another man fishing off Anna Maria Island sustained injuries from a shark later that week, the Herald-Tribune reports.

For more on the story, watch The Today Show's report below.


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