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Islanders have experience with large sawfish

By KEVIN TOMANEK - | Mar 3, 2021

Photo by Kevin Tomanek

Special to The Eagle

My girlfriend Courtney Westmiller and I walk out to the Matlacha pier to watch the sunrise every morning. One recent morning we were running a bit behind, but being a little late is what led us to be part of such a great experience.

An older gentleman was fishing and hooked up with a fish. I didn’t think much of it till he yelled out, “It’s something big.” So we turned and looked to see him fighting something that was crashing its head through the water back-and-forth.

Once we got closer it was clear that it was a sawfish. The gentleman was having trouble so I asked if I could assist him in getting the hook out. He wanted pictures and handed the pole off to Courtney to get his camera.

Courtney held on and fought the fish for a minute until I grabbed the fishing line. I went to go lift the sawfish by the fishing line to reach the hook and the hook pulled out.

By this time, our other friend Renee Moglia, was assisting by getting photos and video. We observed the sawfish swim in a short circle and return near the mangroves where it was initially sitting according to the fisherman. There’s a slight opening in the mangroves near where it was resting so I decided to get in the water to get a closer view and get more pictures and video. That’s when I was able to get right up behind it and could’ve reached down and touched it if I wanted.

I was able to approach it from behind fairly easily without it seeing. But if I tried approaching from the side or front, he would move out of my way. After observing it for approximately 5 minutes, it swam out of sight.

It was a fantastic, once in a lifetime, experience!