By Coastal Breeze News Staff
Marco Island boat captain Ted Naftal was quite surprised to see what was on the end of his fishing line after a four-hour fight on April 25 — a 16-foot, 600 lb. smalltooth sawfish.
This is the second such monster caught in Marco waters in the last two months. On March 7, Rookery Bay Reserve Fisheries Biologist Pat O’Donnell and his volunteers captured three endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in Fakahatchee Bay while out on their monthly shark monitoring and tagging program. The largest was a female measuring nearly 15 feet.
Two types of sawfish, the smalltooth and the largetooth, can be found in Florida waters. The smalltooth sawfish has between 23-34 teeth, while the largetooth has between 14-21. The smalltooth sawfish has been a protected species in Florida waters since 1992, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. Initially, the largetooth sawfish was turned down for this status due to lack of information, but a combined effort through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Florida Program for Shark Research gathered new information on the largetooth sawfish and its status in Gulf waters. With this new information, the largetooth sawfish was added to the Endangered Species Act as of July 21, 2011, and are considered Critically Endangered.
To report a sawfish sighting, e-mail the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at sawfish@MyFWC.com or call 941-255-7403. To file a report of a sawfish sighting or encounter, please include the date and time of the encounter, the location, the estimated length of each sawfish, the water depth and any other relevant details.