Shark jaws snagged in Mississippi River in Minnesota baffle experts

A fisherman on the Mississippi River in Minnesota made a bizarre and unexplainable catch that both he and his son initially misidentified until they saw the teeth. Then they realized it was a set of shark jaws.

Joe Piskel, 59, of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and his son Joey Piskel, 32, of Bemidji were fishing the river near Highway 6 west of Grand Rapids when the startling catch was made, according to the Star Tribune.

"When we saw it coming up, we had no idea what it was,” Joey told the Star Tribune. “We thought it was a sheep skull or cow jaw until we saw the teeth.”

The shark jaws, measuring 10 inches, were taken to the Grand Rapids Department of Natural Resources office for identification.

A fisheries biologist determined the shark jaws were from a sand tiger shark, a saltwater species that had no business in the Mississippi River.

Sand tiger sharks are known to roam the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, but the Mississippi River? It might be possible for a bull shark. It's known to thrive in freshwater and saltwater, and is said to have traveled up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. But not a sand tiger shark.

“I couldn’t speculate how it got there, but it’s doubtful it got there on its own,” Cheri Zeppelin, information offer for the DNR, told the Star Tribune. "The dams that are downstream from this don’t allow for that kind of fish passage."

A set of shark jaws were snagged from the Mississippi River. Photo: Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Department of Natural Resources office

A photo of the shark jaws was posted on a popular Minnesota fishing Facebook page called Fishesota where speculation was widespread.

Someone suggested it came from a gift shop in Florida, but the Star Tribune wrote that DNR officials said the jawbone didn't appear to be a "tourist trinket," as it appeared to have flesh attached to it.

"Oh yeah," Joey told the Star Tribune, confirming the presence of flesh. "It had a lot of flesh and was very rotten smelling."

The jaws were being cleaned up in hydrogen peroxide. Once dried, Joey plans on hanging them on the wall and will forever have a great memory about fishing with dad.