On Sunday, Dustin Richter and his friends got a rare treat when the angler pulled in a 500-pound sawfish while fishing in the Boynton Beach Inlet in southern Florida. Richter told WPTV that it was the first time he had ever seen a sawfish—also known as a carpenter shark—up close.
“He was just so powerful, just so strong of a fish. It’s like he wasn’t even hooked. He kept swimming out. It was like he wasn’t even on our line,” he said.
It took nearly two hours for the angler to reel the large animal into the light. The first thing Richter noticed after hooking the fish was its four-foot-long rostrum that sawed through the waters. The bony teeth-like denticles that line a sawfish’s nose are used primarily for feeding and defense—the fish uses its long nose to slash from side to side to stun schooling fish or to defend itself from predators.
Though they bear a passing resemblance to sharks, sawfish are actually among the world’s largest rays. They can easily reach over 16 feet in length, and Richter estimated his catch at an even 11 feet.
“[When] we got him close we saw the bill come out of the water; everyone was going crazy, we could not believe the size of this thing,” he told CBS 12.
Although once prized as a game fish for their fighting ability, all species of sawfish are currently listed as endangered or critically endangered. Richter said that he was able to release his catch safely after a few quick photographs.
Sawfish are a protected species in Florida waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages anglers to release sawfish as soon as possible and to share sightings with the agency’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
You can see video of the catch below: