Bitten fisherman reels in wrong type of shark: 'It was a heck of a mess'
When lifelong Australian fisherman Rod McFarlane leant over the edge of his boat on Port Phillip Bay, in Victoria, he thought he had spotted dinner.
He'd been on the water since leaving the Queenscliff marina at 6.30am on Tuesday and was on a mission to catch some snapper.
Instead his line snagged something a lot bigger about three kilometres off shore, what he reckoned was a gummy shark.
As the retired 73-year-old said from his hospital bed the next day, "I could see the fillets".
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"They're good eating the old gummy sharks, they're full of flake. Hence the word gummy, they've got no teeth. Well supposedly I thought so."
After a half-hour struggle, McFarlane pulled something into his boat that was much more dangerous: a 1.5-metre broadnose sevengill shark.
Before he knew it, the creature had plunged its razor-sharp teeth into McFarlane 's right arm, hand and elbow.
"It grabbed onto my hand, straight away I knew I was in trouble. It started thrashing with my hand in its mouth," he said.
McFarlane said he hauled the shark into his boat using the fishing gaff and his hand. Once it was in the vessel, the shark let go and started flailing about on the floor of his boat.
He stood on a seat to protect his legs and did a brief stocktake: all fingers accounted for, not in full working order.
"The pain was instant but the damage, I couldn't believe in that split couple of seconds ... it just shredded me," he said.
"I looked down and it was a heck of a mess."
After calling his wife and asking her to call the ambulance, McFarlane hit the throttle on his boat and started heading for the shore.
"There was blood pumping everywhere, it had gone through an artery. I'm thinking 'gee, what do I do now?'.
"I was by myself so I just grabbed a towel and wrapped my hand up," he said.
"I got about half way back and started feeling really woozy and thought 'oh this isn't good, I might not get back to the marina"."
Despite the loss of blood, McFarlane managed to make it back to safety near Queenscliff, where he was greeted by paramedics who flew him to hospital.
"They said I had about two or three litres of blood in the towel by the time I got back," he said.
McFarlane was due to have surgery to repair his split hand on Wednesday but was in remarkably good spirits when speaking with the media, considering the damage done to his limb.
He joked that he was a little bit disappointed that the shark had been put back in the water.
"It's a pity, I wouldn't have minded a few fillets off it," he said.
"A bit of payback. I went out there to eat him, he ended up eating me."
It'll be a while before McFarlane gets back on the water, for a start he's going to need to learn to write left-handed.
But he won't let the close encounter with a shark bite stop him fishing.
"I'll just pick on whiting that haven't got teeth," he said.
- Sydney Morning Herald