COCOA BEACH, Fla. – A man traveling from England to Florida for a vacation had one thing at the top of his bucket list: to catch a shark. But what he reeled in was something much rarer.
Ian Atherton arrived in the sunshine state earlier this month and joined Capt. Jon Cangianella of Fin & Fly charters in Cocoa Beach April 9 for shark fishing.
Cangianella deployed a chunk of bluefish, an oily fish which draws in sharks from a large distance once the scent of the fish gets into the ocean’s currents.
Soon, there was a bite on the line and Atherton watched a sawfish come out of the water.
The nose of the fish resembles a hedge trimmer, and on a large sawfish it can measure up to 4 or 5 feet. The fish uses it in the wild by swinging it back and forth through a school of small baitfish. A whack from the saw will stun a small fish, which allows the sawfish to pick it up from the ocean bottom because it mouth is on the underside of the large fish. Sawfish also eat crustaceans and other bottom-dwelling organisms.
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Sawfish are very closely related to stingrays, not so much sharks, but they are sometimes caught using the same methods. They inhabit Florida waters, but their population numbers in the wild are a mere fraction of what their numbers were before pioneer families 120 years ago began fishing coastal waters with nets.
Cangianella freed the sawfish from its hook without removing it from the water, and the sawfish swam off healthy and strong. After the unique encounter, the group set out for another spot with different bait, and Atherton landed a few king mackerel.
He never did fulfill his dream of catching a shark, but not many people can say they reeled in a sawfish.
Follow Ed Killer on Twitter @tcpalmekiller.