A group of men fishing for flounder off the New Jersey coast on Saturday didn’t manage to catch any keepers — but they did return to shore with an unforgettable tale — and video — of a close encounter with a great white shark.
“We were pretty amazed with the sight, because it was like, once in a lifetime,” Joey Piazza told NBC10 Philadelphia.
Piazza and three others, including his cousin Jim Piazza, were less than a mile from the beach off the south end of Sea Isle City when they saw the shark, which they estimated was at least 12 feet long.
“Look at this monster!” one of the men can be heard saying in video they captured of the shark, which they said circled their boat several times.
Experts say great whites, which can grow to be more than 18 feet in length, are currently passing by the Jersey coastline as they migrate north for the summer and fall.
Chris Fischer, founder of the nonprofit Ocearch, said it's not unusual to see great white sharks off the East Coast at this time of year.
"They go up to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer and fall," Fischer told NBC News. "They forage up there, bulking up and putting on weight, and then when it starts to get cold, they move down to their winter habitat, primarily between Cape Hatteras and Cape Canaveral."
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Earlier this year in April, researchers spotted another great white shark off the Jersey Shore — this one a tagged 12-foot, 998-pound shark nicknamed "Ironbound."
Sharks tend to move closer to shorelines on their journey north as waters grow warmer after the winter months. Fischer said that the shark being seen so close to the shore on Saturday is no reason to be afraid to go in the ocean.
“Those sharks are going by all day every day, doing exactly what those sharks are doing, and we’re all swimming and enjoying ourselves at the beaches,” he said.
Jim Piazza said that while the shark didn’t seem aggressive, in the moment the encounter was “a little bit scary, a little bit nerve-wracking. It’s a brand new boat — you don’t want him to get aggressive and bite the boat.”
There have been 471 shark attacks by various species in the U.S. since 2012, eight of them fatal, according to shark experts from the Florida Museum of Natural History and International Shark Attack Files.
While Piazza and his group didn’t bring home any fish, the shark encounter made for an unforgettable trip.
“To see it in the oceans today, a great giant of the world, it’s just, impressive,” Joey Piazza said.