Catching a smalltooth sawfish on Sanibel Island, Florida was unexpected
Kevin Butcher’s age is 51 years old. He said he has been fishing most of his life. When he went fishing on Sanibel Island recently, he caught a fish he had never seen before himself.
“He reminded me of a character from Pirates of the Caribbean,” Butcher said.
Prehistoric times also come to mind when Butcher, a Minnesota native, laid eyes on a smalltooth sawfish he caught Sept. 9 with a Pennsylvania fishing rod and Penn 5500 VI reel. He said he was fishing on the beach near West Gulf Drive below where the Shalimar Cottages and Hotel stood before Hurricane Ian.
Butcher said it was a process of more than a half-hour to catch the unusual fish until he finally saw what was on the other end of his line. He used pieces of whiting as bait. The initial strike came at 12:45pm and the giant fish was finally beached at Butcher’s feet at 1:26pm.
He estimated the small sawfish was 9 feet long and weighed 150 pounds.
After taking some photos, Butcher returned the smalltooth sawfish to the bay.
“Back to Davy Jones’ locker,” he said.
He admitted that he was not aware that the smalltooth sawfish is classified as endangered and protected at both the state and federal levels. He said he was also told at a local bait shop that it is more common for smalltooth sawfish to be caught in the canals.
Was he apprehensive when he handled the fish?
“Great time,” Butcher said. “It’s been going well.”
Butcher recently purchased a vacation home on Sanibel. He has been coming here for 10 years. If he didn’t feel like a native before catching a small sawfish, he should now.
“My grandfather and father took me fishing at a very young age, but we don’t have fish like we have in Minnesota,” he said.
What is a small-toothed sawfish: 5 things to know
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):
- The smalltooth sawfish is a cartilaginous fish belonging to the subclass Elasmobranchii, which also includes all sharks and rays.
- This dark brown dorsal fish can reach 18 feet in length, including the saw.
- The smalltooth sawfish is a species of ray, partly because it has gill slits on the lower part of the body and pectoral fins attached to the head.
- Little is known about what the smalltooth sawfish feeds on. Their diet is thought to consist of crabs, shrimp, small fish, and other bottom-dwelling organisms.
- Historical threats have included unintentional overfishing associated with commercial fisheries, fishing associated with recreational fisheries, and habitat destruction. The population of small-toothed sawfish has declined to a small portion of Florida’s southern coast