A Monster Fish Just Took Your Bait and All Your Line. Whoa! What Was It? Here Are a Few Suspects. | CAI

A Monster Fish Just Took Your Bait and All Your Line. Whoa! What Was It? Here Are a Few Suspects.

Aug 18, 2017

Angler Tyler Contento landed this Spiny Butterfly Ray while shark fishing from a beach in New Jersey. It measured more than 7 feet across. Spiny Butterfly Rays are found in Cape Cod waters, but are landed only infrequently. This ray was safely released after the photo.
Credit Tyler Contento / Facebook

Everyone who’s ever gone fishing knows the anguish of losing a fish - and there are many ways to lose a fish. But perhaps the most mysterious way is getting spooled. 

Most often this happens to fishermen when fishing bait at night from the shore. But it can happen from a boat too. A fish hits your bait and goes off with it. You either clamp down hard on the drag and the line snaps, or you fail to turn it and it strips the line from your reel. It's a set-up for heartbreak and endless second-guessing. Was that the fish of a lifetime that just got away? Was it the world's record striped bass? 

Kevin Blinkoff, editor at On the Water magazine, has given some considerable thought to this scenerio, and he has a few likely explanations  -  none of which involve that really really big striper that you're imagining. 

Here they are:

Something has grabbed your catch. The fish that just took your bait was just as quickly snatched by something bigger. The culprit might be a seal. Or it might be a shark. There are many more sharks in Cape Cod waters than most people suspect. A brown shark (they can grow to 200 lbs or more) is a good candidate for a fish-and-line stealer. 

Or it could be a massive ray. This is not as wild of a suggestion as you may think. There are a couple of massive rays that inhabit our waters. They're well-known to divers - and they are occasionally landed by shark fishermen, who are using heavy gear. One is the Spiny Butterfly Ray. A young man in New Jersey landed one that measured more than 7 feet across. Another possibility - an even bigger beast - is a Rough Tail Stingray. They can grow to 14 feet or more and weigh as much as 600 lbs. There are at least 2 reports of these being landed on Cape Cod, from South Beach.

This episode of the Fishing News is a rebroadcast; it originally aired in August 2014.