Tourist on Shark Fishing Trip in Florida Hooks Rare 13-Foot Fish Instead
One of the things Ian Atherton had on his bucket list for his April vacation in Florida was to catch a shark. But in the end, Mother Nature had much cooler plans for the British tourist.
On April 9, Atherton went on a half-day shark fishing trip with Capt. Jon Cangianella of Fin & Fly Fishing Charters in Cocoa Beach, Florida. According to Florida Today, Cangianella took him a few miles off of Port Canaveral to a spot in where the water is about 35-feet-deep and released a chunk of bluefish to attract sharks.
It didn't take long for him to get a bite. After an hour-long battle, Atherton's had reeled his catch in enough for Cangianella to get a clear look at it. What he witnessed was the giant rostrum, or saw, of a 13-foot smalltooth sawfish.
Cangianella released the endangered fish without incident and it swam off unharmed. He then relocated the boat to a different spot where Atherton caught a few king mackerel, Florida Today reports.
While he didn't hook a shark that day, Atherton did get to experience something much more rare.
Smalltooth sawfish are one of five sawfish species in the world and the only sawfish species found in Florida waters. They have 22 to 29 teeth on each side of their snout, which they swing back and forth to impale and stun prey.
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Sadly, sawfish become easily entangled in commercial fishing nets, and their populations have declined dramatically since the early 1900s. The smalltooth sawfish was listed as endangered in 2003 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, making it the first marine fish to receive federal protection. All sawfish caught in U.S. waters must be released unharmed immediately.
For more information on sawfish research and recovery efforts in Florida, visit sawfishrecovery.org. To report sawfish sightings like Atherton's, call the Sawfish Hotline: 1-844-4SAWFISH or email firstname.lastname@example.org.