Massive bull sharks caught in Australian rivers; ‘Like a scene out of Jaws’

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Anthony Micallef poses next to 0-foot bull shark. Photo: Courtesy of Yep, I’m On Fishing

Bull sharks are known to enter rivers on Australia's east coast, but recent catches reveal just how large some of the dangerous predators are near areas popular among summer crowds.

The catches were made in New South Wales and photos were posted to the Facebook page, Yep, I'm On Fishing.

The most recent post shows Stephen Pateman straddling a 10-foot bull shark that he caught after a 2-hour fight in the vast Clarence River system. The shark was said to be released in good condition.

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Chris Micallef smiles after catching a large bull shark. Photo: Courtesy of Yep, I’m On Fishing

An earlier post shows Chris and Anthony Micallef posing with a 10-foot bull shark caught near the mouth of the Hastings River after a 2.5-hour struggle. The shark also was released.

Chris Micallef, 22, who was fishing with his father from a boat and using eel for bait, is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying:

“I'd never seen anything that big before. We brought it up to the surface so I could get a look at it with the torch and all you could see was its eyes and its mouth, like a scene out of  Jaws.”

Micallef told the Daily Mail that it was the fourth large shark he has caught recently in the Hastings River, near Port Macquarie, which is popular among water skiers and swimmers.

These catches come after reports last December of anglers catching nearly 100 bull sharks a week in rivers and canals in the state of Queensland, immediately north of New South Wales.

The recent catches help show the extent of the proliferation of bull sharks into river systems in east Australia.

Bull sharks, one of only a few shark species able to tolerate fresh water, are among the world's most notorious shark species when it comes to attacks on humans.

Perhaps more troubling for locals, bull sharks are found farther up rivers during the popular summer months.

“They can be found all year around but it is known that females are more commonly found in estuaries during summer when they give birth,” Daniel Butcher, a Southern Cross University shark researcher, told the Daily Telegraph.

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Stephen Pateman straddles a 10-foot bull shark. Photo: Courtesy of Yep, I’m On Fishing

“Males may wait around the lower estuary to intercept females as they return, so summer is the time when larger individuals are more likely to be found further upstream and in the estuary.”

But many locals believe the danger is overstated — that the phenomenon is old news.

Reads a comment beneath the Clarence River shark photos: “I have swam in the river my whole life and there has always been sharks in the river … nothing has changed in 30 years.”

Bull sharks, it's worth noting, have been blamed in the deaths of at least two people in Queensland waterways during the past 15 years.

Still, most anglers are releasing the sharks they catch, considering themselves to be conservationists. Some are even tagging the predators for  research.

Which many believe is the way it should be, considering the valuable role all sharks, as apex predators, play in ecosystems around the world.

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