On Sunday morning, a group of five fishermen put up an hour-long fight to reel in an endangered sawfish in the Boynton Beach Inlet in Florida. Dustin Richter told WPTV 5, "We got in close, and it didn't seem that big then. We saw the entire fish, and saw it was huge, and then it took off and the fight was on."
The group of high school friends was celebrating their upcoming graduation with a fishing trip and never thought they’d experience what they did. When Richter first saw the humungous fish, he thought it was a shark. “’Oh my God. It's a saw shark.' That's the first thing I thought, the rarest species of all. We've never even seen one in person, pictures or anything," recalled Richter. "We were amazed, because it was 11 feet long and the bill was 4 feet long and it was just a crazy find," Richter told WSVN 7 News.
The sawfish’s distinctive flattened rostrom, or nose extension, is lined with sharp tooth-like scales and resembles a saw. The rostrom is used for self-defense, to catch prey, and to dig. WSVN notes that they typically do not attack unless provoked. The endangered species’ numbers dwindled in partbecause they would get unintentionally caught in commercial fishing nets. Interestingly, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) points out that while the sawfish swims like a shark, it is not a shark, but rather, related to the ray because of the gills on the underside of their bodies.
The estimated 500-pound fish fought with, what seemed like, ease. Richter said, "He was just so powerful, so strong of a fish. It was like he wasn't even hooked. He kept swimming out, like he wasn't even on our line." Eventually, the fishermen were able to reel the sawfish in and then released it. But not before capturing their battle on video and finding that a tooth from the fish came off during the struggle.
WPEC 12 News reports that the young men did what the FWC recommends, which is, if you see or catch a sawfish, release it and report it, so scientists can track the species’ population.
Richter said, "Just incredible. That's my word I've been saying it’s incredible. We are going to remember this the rest of our lives."