Fly fishing rod

Sawfish was hauled up off the Kennedy Space Center.


When the rod folded back, Captain Parker Miley knew right away it had to be fat, whatever it was. After all, as the old saying goes, “big bait produces big fish.”

Miley had put a large piece of trevally as bait on a fish-finding platform in 20 feet of water a few hundred yards from the beach. Her anglers, the Therriault family of Green Bay, Wisconsin, had told Miley that since it was the last day of their vacation, they wanted to fish for sharks – after all, in Florida everyone knows the week sharks never ends.

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A 13-foot sawfish was captured and released on August 4, 2021 by anglers fishing with Fin and Fly Charters from Port Canaveral.

What was on the line?

They had caught and released a cute black-nosed shark before, but that bite looked different. He picked up the bait slowly and spun the big reel steadily.

Miley put the hook on to make sure their grip didn’t unbutton before winding it up to the boat. But that did not allow this witness to function like a shark. As one of the fishermen began to pick it up, they all knew they were going to be engaged in a long battle.

About 20 minutes into the fight, fisherman Kevin Therriault was gaining ground and convinced the unknown sea monster to rise to the surface. That’s when Miley got horny.

“Oh my God, it’s a sawfish! Guys, this fish is super rare!” he apologized.

A fish like no other

Miley is right. The sawfish catches in Florida are about as unusual as the sightings of skunk monkeys. Fish are really weird – they have long, heavy bodies built to lie on the bottom of the sea, lagoon, estuary, or bay. They have two dorsal fins and a large, powerful tail which doesn’t make them fast, but makes them very difficult to whip with a rod and reel and a thin piece of fishing line in between.

But their hallmark is that saw – called a rostrum by marine biologists – that protrudes from the end of their face like a 4 to 5 foot long hedge trimmer. The fish use it by rocking it back and forth to knock out small fish, then pick them up at the bottom. They also eat crustaceans and other organisms that live on the bottom.

Sawfish are actually very close to stingrays, not so much sharks, but are sometimes caught using the same methods – by throwing a big dead bait on the bottom. They inhabit Florida waters, but their numbers in the wild are only a fraction of what they were before pioneer families 120 years ago began fishing coastal waters. with nets.

For Kevin, Jennifer, Ava and Will Therriault, the meeting was a meeting they will never forget and was the perfect culmination to end a vacation to Sunshine State. Miley is one of the skippers who work for Fin and Fly Charters, a multi-boat charter fishing company that transports anglers to the catches in the Indian River Lagoon or the Atlantic Ocean from Cocoa Beach. or Port Canaveral. To book travel, visit finandflycharters.com.

Bounce

The small-toothed sawfish can grow to around 16 feet in length. They are one of the five species of sawfish in the world and the only species of sawfish found in Florida waters. Historically, the species has been found along the eastern seaboard of the United States and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, including the waters of the Indian River Lagoon, Charlotte Harbor, and the Everglades.

But sawfish easily get tangled in fishing nets used by commercial fishermen looking for other target species. Over the past 120 years, sawfish populations have declined dramatically. Unfortunately, they have been listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 2003.

For more information on the current sawfish search and recovery efforts in Florida, visit the FWC Sawfish and Sawfish Recovery website at sawfishrecovery.org.

To report sawfish sightings, call the Sawfish Hotline: 844-4SAWFISH or email [email protected]

What to do if you catch a sawfish

All sawfish caught in US waters must be released unharmed immediately or face federal prosecution.

Keep the sawfish in the water at all times.

If it can be done safely, untangle the wire if it is wrapped around the saw and remove as much of the wire as possible.

Cut the line as close to the hook as possible.

Do not handle the animal or attempt to remove the hooks from the saw unless you have a long-handled lifter.

Do not remove the rostrum or the saw.

Sawfish Encounters in Florida 1782-2017

  • Total: 11,523
  • Monroe: 5,939
  • Lee: 2,726
  • Charlotte: 1,020
  • Collar: 974
  • Martin: 177
  • Palm Beach: 135
  • Broward: 122
  • Saint Lucia: 71
  • Miami-Dade: 53
  • Pinelles: 41
  • Brevard: 40
  • Sarasota: 32
  • Manatee: 27
  • Indian River: 26
  • Hillsborough: 25
  • Volusie: 16

Source: International Sawfish Encounters Database

Ed Killer is the outdoor writer for FLORIDA TODAY. Friend Ed on Facebook to Ed Killer, follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or send him an e-mail at[email protected].



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