SEA ISLE, N.J. – It's a summer vacation one Pennsylvania angler will never forget after an up-close and personal visit by a massive great white shark off the Jersey Shore.
Jim Piazza was fishing with family near the coast of Sea Isle City, New Jersey, when he spotted the estimated 1,000-pound beast.
"Look at this monster," said Piazza while recording the shark in a live video he posted to Facebook.
'It was pretty wild'
The Media, Pennsylvania, man was renting a house on the bay for the summer and decided to head out on his boat Saturday with his son, cousin and son’s friend. After four hours of fishing about six miles off the coast on a manmade reef, the group decided to make their way back to the inlet.
"About a half mile off the coast, we encountered the shark. I actually almost ran it over. My son pointed it out," said Piazza who swung his boat around and circled the shark for a few minutes to take some videos and pictures. "It was pretty wild. It was a much larger in person than it was on the video, that's for sure."
When that shark swam up to his 23-foot Sportsman Open 232 Center Console, Piazza said it looked to be about half to three-quarters the size of the vessel.
Shortly after their encounter, the anglers headed into the inlet. When they got into the bay, the U.S. Coast Guard boarded their boat for a safety check. The overjoyed fisherman shared their exciting fishing tale with authorities who estimated the shark was about 12 feet long.
Shark experts told Piazza that the animal was in its teens.
Shark populations in decline
Piazza had never encountered a white shark, which are not uncommon off the New Jersey coast. However, spotting one less than a mile from the shore is rare.
"I think that was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's not every day you see a large fish like that in the ocean, that's for sure," Piazza said.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, 137 alleged shark-human interactions have been investigated worldwide in 2021. There have only been 15 confirmed and unprovoked shark attacks in New Jersey since 1837.
OCEARCH, a non-profit marine research group, has been tracking another 1,000-pound white shark recently pinged swimming along the East Coast, making its way past the Jersey Shore and the Carolinas.
Ironbound, named after the West Ironbound Island near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where the shark was first tagged in 2019, is roughly 12 feet and 4 inches long.
OCEARCH said the 20-year-old shark has traveled about 13,000 miles since first tagged and has been going back and forth from the Florida Keys to Nova Scotia several times.
Over the last 40 years, shark populations have dropped and are marked as vulnerable, facing population decline because of overfishing.