Florida Man Reels In Endangered 10-Foot Sawfish: “I Honestly Didn’t Think I’d Ever Even See One In My Lifetime”

Tampa Bay Times/Klae Hochstetler

Talk about the catch of a lifetime.

But imagine the disappointment at having to set it free.

That’s what happened to 18-year old Klae Hochstetler of Florida when he was fishing near the Boca Grande Pass in Florida recently and got a bite on his line.

According to Hochstetler, the beast put up quite a fight as he was reeling it in:

“I‘ve even caught really big bull sharks and Goliaths (grouper) before, but this headshake was crazy. I haven’t felt something like this before. It almost pulled me off the rock I was standing on.”

And because it was dark, he had trouble seeing what he had hooked. But after about 5 minutes he got it reeled in, he realized he had caught something he had never even seen in person before: A 10-foot sawfish.

Sawfish are an endangered species in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act. Their population estimates across the world only range from as few as 200 or up to 5,000, so it’s still difficult to know if the population is still declining or has stabilized.

Also known as carpenter sharks, these creatures are actually part of the ray family, and are known for their long saw-like nose. The saw on their face is used for a number of things such as digging, and as a defense mechanism to protect against sharks. However, they can also detect electric fields with it to help them track down prey and avoid predators.

Averaging about 18 feet, but can as big as 25, they are typically found in shallow, coastal waters, especially around Florida between Charlotte Harbor (near where Hochstetler was fishing) and the Florida Keys.

The fish are important to the ecosystem because they feed on sick or injured schools of fish – but they’re also prey for sharks, so they typically stick to seabeds, where they’re able to better camouflage themselves.

Protected since 2003, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has even set up a hotline to report sawfish sightings – and they recommend cutting the line as close as possible to the hook.

Of course that’s easier said than done because of…well, the giant saw on the fish’s face. And Hochstetler says he tried his best, but wasn’t about to reach in with the fish shaking its head like it was:

“I’ve never even seen a fish be able to shake like this fast. I wasn’t gonna take any chances unless I had some 10-foot pliers.”

So he did the best he could, got as much of the line cut as possible, and set the monster loose again – watching the catch of a lifetime swim away.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock