All species of sawfish are on the endangered list, but you wouldn’t know it by the incredible catches new the Gulf edge over the last several weeks. There have been no shortages of these mysterious and massive animals in the southwestern part of the state over the Spring. An oddity among fish, the sawfish (nicknamed carpenter shark) is skeletally cartilagenous and can reach over 24 feet long and weigh over 5,000 pounds. They bare their young live and the babies are thankfully delivered with a protective sheath encasing their toothy saws. The formidable spikes are not teeth at all, but lookalikes called denticles. The saw itself (called a rostrum) is peppered with electrosensitive pores that can detect food. Plentiful overly efficient sensors have found several anglers’ baits, and the results have created the following catches of a lifetime:
Tom Jenni and Steve Potter from Montana, each bested giant sawfish in the 17 foot, 700 pound class during two productive outings on the Gulf. They also landed 6 blacktip sharks, 2 spinners, a 400 pound tiger and a 140 pound tarpon all on 20 pound spinning tackle.
Justin Simon locked up with and defeated twin 700 pound whopper saws on consecutive bites, taken on 30 pound spinners using one pound jack crevalles on bottom, also in the Gulf. He added on 3 blacktips, 2 spinners and a lemon.
Lee Waite nailed a huge 800 pound sawfish that measured out to 17 1/2 feet, using 30 pound spin and a juicy butterflied ladyfish for bait. He also caught 2 blacktips, 2 high-flying spinners and an angry lemon shark.
George and Cheri Grinnan from Virginia pulled on a 19 foot beast for 2 hours before releasing the easily 1,000 pound spectacle. This sawfish also ate a whole 3 pound ladyfish on 30 pound line. They somehow had enough energy left to catch 2 large lemon sharks and a career tarpon that carried a 48 inch girth!
Linsdsay Nevin from Atlanta cranked up 3 snapping blacktips and then squared off and won against an 800 pound sawfish that was over 17 feet long, taken from the Snake Bight area on a whole sacrificial ladyfish slab.
Glory Joy from Orlando was victorious over her very first sawfish, an 18 foot 800 pound plus apparition that sucked up 2 pounds of bloody jack crevalle on 30 pound line.
Dr. Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale still has numbness in his fingers well after going to war with 5 sawfish over 2 days in Florida Bay, ranging from 600 to 1,000 pounds. In one painful stretch, 3 bites in a row turned out to be back to back to back fights that lasted hours with these seamonsters. He somehow had enough circulation left to add 4 spinners and a 150 pound bull to his total!
Cousins Rett Thompson, 14 years old and Patrick Brunson 13 years old both of Saint Simons Island, fishing like veterans well beyond their years, caught 4 blacktips, 2 wide-bodied nurse sharks and a bull, and then whipped 4 sawfish from 600-800 pounds over 2 days of fishing. The 18 foot 800 pounder burned up 4 hours of fishing time!
What an attractive diversion provided by the sawfish, from the normal cast of characters! The bite is normally an ultra slow pull of line, culminating in solid, concrete-like solid, weight. If the water is shallow enough, many sawfish leave a 20 foot wide mud field after they take a bait. Any fresh fish on bottom will entice this prehistoric predator. We have fooled them over the years with mullet, ladyfish, jack crevalle, bluefish and mackerel. And we rig for giants. Thirty pound test would be a practical minimum, and 50 pound or more (especially for users of braid) would certainly not be overkill. Hundred or more pound wire with strong 9/0 or larger circle hooks and just enough lead to hold the bottom would cover the terminal tackle.
Immense, slow moving dinosaurs (which can be upwards of 50 years old) are very tough to wear down. They can be slowly coaxed forward and towards shallow water with the boat in reverse. This seems to compromise them just enough to slightly put the advantage in the angler’s favor. Attempting to pump one up and off the bottom is nearly futile, as sawfish are broad and can expertly hug bottom, much more like a ray than a shark.
But the work is absolutely worth the wait just to see one of these incredible beasts next to the boat. The physically arduous and time consuming task of outlasting a giant sawfish can best be summed up many years back by an angler from the Midwest who spent nearly 5 hours finishing off a grander. He said, “Everything I have two of hurts!”.
- by Capt. Mark Krowka