After it gave birth to four babies, the rare spotted eagle ray was released back into the wild.
Advertisement

April Jones, along with her son, husband, and father-in-law, were hoping to land a big fish during the 2022 Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo last week. Instead, they left with a story they'll be telling for the rest of their lives.  

The family was fishing near the Sand Island Lighthouse off Dauphin Island last Friday when something extraordinary happened.

"I felt something hit me," Jones told Fox News, "and then I see this big blob flopping around in the back of the boat."

A rare 400-pound spotted eagle ray had launched itself into the boat. 

"We thought she'd be able to get herself out of the boat, but due to her weight, she couldn't get herself out," Jones said. "We tried to get her out, but she weighed too much."

The ray was so heavy that it was weighing the boat down, so the family decided to head back to shore for help, dumping water on it during the roughly 20-minute ride. The closest boat ramp just so happened to be located at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  

"I ran into the lab to see if anyone could help get her out," Jones recalled to Fox. "In the meantime, some people had come to the boat and helped her get out." 

That's when they noticed that at some point, the ray had given birth to four babies.  Sadly, they were all dead. The "devastated" family made the decision to donate them to the Sea Lab.

"What we learned from the lab about stingrays is if they are in any type of stressful situation, they will give birth," Jones told Fox. "We don't know how far along these babies were. We were told she jumped because a remora, or suckerfish, was likely stuck to her. And by flying out of the water—if it had landed in the water—the sucker fish would've fallen off." 

Brian Jones, curator of the Alabama Aquarium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, told Fox that it's not uncommon for wild animals to release their young when they feel threatened. 

He said that ray species "are known to produce young when captured by fishermen. Occasionally, these young are fully developed and are able to swim away successfully. At other times, the young are produced prematurely and do not survive."  

Jones later went to the ER where she was diagnosed with a shoulder strain and sore collar bone from the impact. Fortunately, she was not stung. 

"This is a story you would have needed to see to believe!!" she wrote in a now-viral Facebook post.  "God made some beautiful creatures!!"