These Shark Fishermen Got More Than They Bargained For

Taran Underwood

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If fishing a sport that’s way more fun with friends, then extreme fishing is something that only the most extreme friends should do together. Luckily for Jeff Crilly, he had such a band of extreme fisherman pals to go on a very real-life adventure with this summer of the coast of New York. And luckily for those of us who are a bit more risk-averse, Crilly and his crew caught their extreme encounter on video. So we could enjoy it from a safe distance.

Some People Do Love Sharks, Apparently

Jeff Crilly is a fisherman from Toms River, New Jersey, and he's a big fan of the Steven Spielberg movie Jaws. Or at least, he likes the movie enough to have a tattoo of the terrifying creature from the famous Steven Speilberg movie on his arm. So, regardless of how scary they are he’s a guy who is definitely into sharks.

He Really Did Get a Jaws Tattoo


He showed off his extreme ink to the local NBC News affiliate to prove his enthusiasm for the beasts. "This is the 'Jaws' tattoo with the great white sticking his head out of the water," he told the news outlet as he began his story. "That's exactly what happened to us." From there, Crilly’s tale only gets more insane.

He’s a Competitive Shark Fisher

It turns out if you love sharks as much as Crilly does, you can definitely make a living out of it. Crilly has won a number of shark fishing competitions, so he’s pretty familiar with how to catch the animals. And, more importantly for this story, how to lure them.

It Takes Big Nutz, Literally


When Crilly sets sail, it’s a bit different than when other sailors head out. Crilly is actually looking for some of the ocean’s most fearsome and dangerous predators. The kinds of creatures other sea goers might try to avoid at all costs. And he does it all from the deck of his 31-foot boat, which he’s named “Big Nutz Required II” because that’s what it takes to sail on it.

He Wasn’t Looking for the Kind of Shark He Found

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Although “Big Nuts Required II” had set out that day with the purpose of finding some sharks, Crilly and his friends weren’t looking for exactly the kind of shark they ended up finding. They were looking for mako sharks, which is a fairly large kind of shark, but it’s mostly known for it’s fast speed.

Makos Aren’t That Dangerous

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While they certainly aren’t cuddly little teddy bears, mako sharks also aren’t typically known as man eaters. They’ve been known to attack people only when they are caught and provoked, or if a human is holding a tasty fish they absolutely insist on eating. They’re certainly nothing to fear from the deck of a 31-foot boat.

That’s No Mako


During their shark hunt, the crew suddenly noticed something in the water. Was it a shark? Yes. Was it the kind they were looking for? Not at all. In fact, it was a much, much bigger animal that had been lured in by their shark bait. They were shocked to see an actual great white shark barreling towards them.

Will They Need a Bigger Boat?


Crilly used his shark knowledge to estimate that the great white shark that was circling their boat was about 16 feet long and 2,000 pounds. This means it was almost twice the length and about six times the weight of the kind of mako shark they might normally encounter. "This thing is huge and we all started going crazy," Crilly said. "Never seen anything like this before."

They Caught It (On Tape)


Luckily Crilly’s brother Scott was able to think on his feet and started to record their encounter as it unfolded. He was just in time too, as shortly after he started filming it, the shark surfaced and everything became a lot more like Jaws, the movie, than even the biggest fan would probably prefer.


It Was Just Grabbing a Snack

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The huge shark’s goal was crystal clear: he really wanted to eat Crilly’s chum bag, which is a lure he uses to attract sharks. And being that he was an actual vicious beast, the shark got exactly what he wanted as he munched away on the bait the crew had thrown into the sea like it was only ever meant for him.


It Couldn't Resist


Crilly had used chum to lure the shark in, which is a mixture of bloody fish that is like catnip to any sharks that are nearby. Thanks to their keen sense of smell, which is hundreds of times stronger than a person's, some sharks can detect blood in the water from a half a mile away. So once that chum went in the water, it was sure to attract any sharks that were nearby.

Luckily That’s All He Wanted

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Crilly points out that even though he’s a professional shark fisherman, there’s basically nothing about their encounter that was guaranteed to be safe. "We definitely were afraid of it coming into the boat more because it easily nosed its head up past the silver rub rail and it could've easily pushed the boat down or worse, jumped in," Crilly told NBC.


Things Could've Been Much Worse


While it's definitely a rare occurrence, it's not totally unheard of for a great white shark to jump right into a fishing boat. Terry Selwood of New South Wales, Australia learned that the hard way, when he described to National Geographic the night a shark knocked him over jumping into his fishing boat.


Why Do They Jump Into Boats?


It's not that sharks have anything against boats, or are so eager to eat fishermen that they literally jump after them into a boat. But when hunting prey near the surface of the water, they have been known to breach, or jump out of the water, to catch it. Experts suggest that incidents in which sharks have ended up in fishing boats are a result of their trying to follow fish that are being reeled onto the boat.


It's Not Just Their Teeth That Are Dangerous


Not many realize that a shark's teeth are only part of what makes them such dangerous predators. Their scales are also dangerous. According to National Geographic, shark scales are more similar to teeth. Their dermal denticles, as they're called, are flat and v-shaped, and it can tear off the skin of a human who is unlucky enough to rub up against it.

It Did Bite His Boat


Luckily, Crilly takes good care of his well-made boat, because his new shark friend decided to try and make it part of his snack too. The great white took a big bite of Crilly’s boat, likely because it was trying to do the typical “Is This Food?” test used by basically every animal on Earth. But once the shark realized that no, the boat was not food, it gave up on the feast.


It Left As Quickly As It Came


After its grand entrance and bold statement, the shark quickly swam off in search of more food. "We might never see anything like that again," Crilly told NBC in an interview. And in the video his crew mates can be heard shouting about how it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them, in between a lot of profanity of course.


But He’ll Always Have the Memories

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His shark friend may be gone, but it did leave Crilly something to remember it by. The bite the great white took out of his boat left a mark on the side, as he pointed out to the local news when they came to interview him. Luckily it’s not the kind of bite that affects the boat’s ability to stay safely afloat in the non-shark part of the ocean.


There Could Be Plenty More Where That Came From


Animal experts told NBC that the great white shark population in the northeast of the United States is actually on the rise. They even suggested that the shark that visited Crilly’s boat may have been a female shark looking for somewhere to give birth. That might also explain why the shark was hungry enough to try and eat Crilly’s boat.


They Aren’t the Only Creatures Lurking

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Don’t worry, sharks aren’t the only sea creatures lingering just off shore on the east coast of the U.S. Another boat full of fishermen, this time just off the coast of Long Island, New York, had a close encounter with some much bigger, but gentler, sea life. Chris Spies uploaded a video to Instagram showing two humpback whales getting a little two close for comfort.

They Were Also Snacking

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Snacking seems to be the main hobby of most sea creatures, and these whales were no exception. They were on their backs, mouths open, enjoying the sand eels Spies had dropped as bait. Spies wasn’t surprised by the sighting at all, as humpback whales are a pretty normal sight for fishermen in the area.

But They Did Almost Run Into Him

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However, much like Crilly’s shark friend, these whales weren’t about to let the comfort and safety of a few tiny humans get in the way of their snack attack. In the video, Spies is heard shouting “Hey, buddy!” at a whale that nearly runs right into his boat. It does end up getting shockingly close to him.

They’re True New York Whales

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Luckily at the last moment, the whale turned and avoided hitting the boat. It’s truly a New York whale, very used to maneuvering through tight spaces and avoiding collisions in a crowded area. It almost feels like he’s gonna jump out of the water and yell, “I’m feedin’ here!” But he’s fine to go about his whale business.


And Yes, Whales Can Be Just as Scary as Sharks

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If you think this encounter is cute and cuddly by comparison, think again. There are plenty of known incidents of whales attacking boats intentionally. But even if these whales had no malicious intent, it also isn't unheard of for a whale to accidentally hit a ship. It's actually a risk you take on anytime you go whale watching.


Young Whales Are Very Clumsy

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According to New Scientist, adolescent whales aren't that much different from human teenagers. That is to say, they're not the best with judgement and can sometimes be reckless. In 2010, a humpback whale was photographed jumping onto a yacht, in what experts deemed an accident cause by a whale being something of a reckless teenage driver.


But Don't Let This Keep You Out of the Water


Even though these stories are nerve-wracking, they're pretty exceptional as far as incidents on boats go. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, most boating fatalities are the result of alcohol, and most people who are killed boating die of drowning, not shark or whale attacks. So don't let all these large sea creatures keep you from setting sail, just remember to keep a good head on your shoulders and a life jacket nearby.