Jay Edgett of Dorchester, N.B., has been fishing for many years but a lifetime of angling did not prepare him for what he saw on the end of his line last week.
Edgett and his friends were fishing for bass off of a pier in the Petitcodiac River in southern New Brunswick when he hooked a fish. When the fish came to the surface, he quickly realized it was not a bass but instead a rare sand tiger shark.
“I can honestly say it was the shock of a lifetime down here fishing bass. [The] rod went down and I realized quickly it wasn’t a bass,” Edgett said.
“The words came out of my mouth were, ‘Wow.’ Just, 'My jumping, what is that?’”
Edgett's group of friends pulled out the video camera and recorded the rare feat of landing a sand tiger shark in the Petitcodiac River.
Scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans say it is extremely rare to see a sand tiger shark in Atlantic Canada.
They are normally found in Australia, South Africa or the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Steve Campana, head of the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, was thrilled with the discovery.
"This is a pretty unusual, as a matter of fact this is a very rare circumstance — it's only actually the fourth sand tiger shark that I'm aware of that's ever strayed into Canadian waters," said Campana.
Sand tiger sharks are normally found in shoreline habitats. They are found in warm or temperate waters.
The shark caught by Edgett was roughly one-metre long, however, these sharks can grow up to three metres in length.
When Edgett hauled it out of the Petitcodiac River, he said it quickly became obvious that it was a shark.
“I saw the spots and big teeth. I knew I had something, something a little bit different,” Edgett said.
“[The teeth were] one to two inches long and three rows deep … and he was angry.”
National Geographic magazine describes sand tiger sharks as having a “deceivingly ferocious look.”
“They are large-bodied and display a mouthful of sharp teeth that protrude in all directions, even when the mouth is shut. Despite this, they are a docile, non-aggressive species, known to attack humans only when bothered first,” the magazine says.
Impressive fish tale
Edgett’s ability to land the shark clearly impressed his friends.
Greg Landry said he was surprised by what he saw on the end of the line.
“Friday night was our lucky night. When Jay landed it, we thought it was a bass, then when he pulled it up we realized it was a shark,” he said.
Since they weren't planning to eat the shark, they threw it back into the Petitcodiac River.
Campana complimented him on that decision as the sand tiger shark is endangered in some parts of the world.
He added it's an impressive creature — with fierce looking teeth — but when it comes to people it's actually very gentle.
It isn’t likely that Edgett and Landry will be hooking another shark any time soon.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it's possible the shark followed the warm currents created by the recent hurricanes and tropical storms.
"This is the time where we get the weird and wonderful visitors from our southern neighbour," said Campana.