NEPTUNE, N.J. – A party of sport fishermen had a rare brush with a huge great white shark Monday off the coast of New Jersey.
In an encounter that was very similar to a scene from the 1975 blockbuster "Jaws," the shark came right up to the stern of the boat and grabbed a bag of ground up fish bait called chum.
The once-in-a-lifetime experience was caught on video and has shark researchers buzzing.
"We've fished for sharks a lot and never seen anything like that. We were amazed by how big it was," said captain Jeff Crilly, owner of Big Nutz Required II, a 31-foot Bertram sport boat.
Crilly, 31, estimates the shark's length was more than half the size of the boat, or 16 to 18 feet.
"It was harder to guess the weight because we had nothing to compare it to, but it was probably about 2,000 pounds," Crilly said.
A party of fishermen about 30 miles southeast of the Manasquan Inlet got a shocking visitor: a huge great white shark.
Crilly and a five-man crew were participating in a mako shark tournament and had several types of bait in the water as attractants, including the body of a small tuna drifting on a rope and the chum.
The shark was not hooked and, after stealing the bag of bait, swam off on its own power and vanished, Crilly said. The encounter lasted a couple of minutes.
They were positioned about 30 miles southeast of Manasquan Inlet in Manasquan, N.J., in an area with a water depth of 110 feet, home of the wreck of the R.P. Resor, an oil tanker that was torpedoed in 1942 during World War II.
On board was Ray Kerico, Sean Smida, Steve Minkena and Kevin Schellar.
Crilly, an experienced captain, has won several local shark fishing competitions.
The length of the shark is the same as social media sensation Mary Lee the Shark, a great white shark that weighed 3,500 pounds in 2012 when researchers put a satellite tag on her.
Mary Lee's satellite tag went silent in June 2017 when she was just miles from Beach Haven, but the shark-tracking organization OCEARCH that tagged her believe she's still alive.
Great white sharks: Cape Cod study to examine feeding habits following two attacks
While great white shark populations are on the rise on the East Coast, marine experts said Crilly's encounter is still rare.
"As the population continues to rebound, of course, these chance encounters could increase. This is still a very rare encounter off New Jersey for this elusive fish," said Melissa Michaelson, a volunteer at the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, where she helps verify shark bite incidents.
Michaelson said the shark could be a mature female shark that could be here to pup. The New York/New Jersey bight, an underwater indentation along the Atlantic coast, has long been theorized to be a nursery for great white sharks.
Follow Dan Radel on Twitter: @danielradelapp
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Huge great white shark surprises stunned New Jersey fishermen