BAY COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - A flying fish severely injured an 8-year-old child in Bay County. As a result, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is now urging boaters to be vigilant and slow down on the Choctawhatchee River.
The child was on a fishing trip with his family when a large Gulf sturgeon jumped into their boat in June.
The large leaping fish hit a total of three children aboard the boat, according to FWC.
Nathaniel Smith, 8, was the child who suffered the most severe injuries. He was knocked unconscious and later hospitalized with skull fractures.
"We were bream fishing and it started to rain, so we cranked up and the kids huddled under a tarp in the front of the boat," Smith said. "The sturgeon just came out of nowhere, and I yelled and tried to cut the motor but it was too late," the injured child's father told FWC.
The sturgeon was believed to be 3-4 feet long.
The large fish also grazed the back of the head of the kids and then hit the head of a 16-year old girl and knocked her out of the boat, according to an FWC news release.
The FWC said the family wheeled the boat around, pulled the 16-year-old girl aboard and then realized Nathaniel had taken the brunt of the collision with a blow to the head.
Nathaniel was flown to Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health System in Panama City, then on to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. He was released on July 2nd.
Scientists are not sure why sturgeon jump or leap from the water.
Wildlife officers say the best thing boaters can do is slow down, wear a life jacket and be observant.