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don't fall off your boat at Tuggerah Lakes

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Arjun Ramachandran

July 9, 2008 - 4:46PM

Police issued a warning today after a seven-metre great white shark was reportedly netted and freed in a Central Coast lake.

A commercial fisherman reported to police that he netted the monster in waters at a popular school holiday vacation spot at Tuggerah Lake.

The fisherman reported snaring the seven-metre shark in nets he had cast off Canton Beach, at the northern end of the lake about 5.30am today.

"He claimed that he actually caught the shark in his net and the shark came up and started thrashing about, and hit his boat,'' said Chief Inspector Tim Winmill said.

"He said it was bigger than his boat - he's got an 18-foot boat and he said it would have been about 21 feet.

"Tuggerah Lakes is only about 12 kilometres long and five kilometres wide.

"It's not a big lake but it's a bloody big shark, if it's true.''

The shark was last seen heading south towards the middle of the lake, Chief Inspector Winmill said.

Mick Crowe, president of nearby Soldiers Beach Surf Club, expressed surprise there had been reports of a shark in the lake.

"That's quite bizarre if that's the case - Canton Beach is only ankle-deep water for the first 150 metres,'' he said.

But the Department of Primary Industries and the Fisheries Department both believed the fisherman's claims, Chief Inspector Winmill said.

"They believe he's a credible witness, he's been a commercial fisherman for a long time, he's well aware of species of sharks ... they don't have any reason to doubt the truthfulness of his allegation.''

The fisherman would not speak publicly about his encounter with the great white.

"He's adamant he doesn't want to speak to any form of media, he's an elderly gentleman who has a mistrust of the media,'' Chief Inspector Winmill said.

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From 2005

Jaws Junior

September 26, 2005

Release from: Andrew Carswell

Daily Telegraph (Australia)

It may have only been a baby, but the capture of a great white shark in the Central Coast's Tuggerah Lake has stunned experts and spooked local residents.

The 2m-long shark, dubbed Jaws Junior, was caught in shallow calm waters in a commercial fishing net 500m off the lake's Canton Beach, a popular swimming spot for children.

Unlike its close relatives, great white sharks give birth to fully-formed pups – complete with razor sharp teeth – of up to 1.5m. They begin feeding immediately after birth.

Local estuary commercial fishermen Mark Sales and Dave Hauraki found the shark dead in the nets they had set for bream on August 26.

The capture ends a long-running local debate over the existence of sharks in the lake system, once thought impenetrable to large marine creatures because its entrance to the sea is so shallow.

"I've seen sharks but nothing like this. It was small and young, but big enough to take a limb off or swallow a head whole," Mr Sales told a local newspaper.

But the pair was reluctant to tell their story yesterday, as they are facing hefty fines over the accidental catch of a protected species. Any great white caught must be reported to the State Government.

Canton Beach is on the eastern side of Tuggerah Lake only minutes from The Entrance, and is a haven for wading prawn fishermen. It is also a perfect swimming environment for children with families flocking to the region during summer.

Sydney-based shark expert Ian Gordon said the juvenile great white might have followed mullet into the lake.

Mr Gordon, dubbed the Shark Whisperer, said it was highly unusual for a white shark to enter a lake and it would have had to "thread the needle" of the shallow lake entrance.

Des Dunn, the division commander of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol at Wallarah Bay said: "I've never seen a shark in the lake myself. For a while now people have been adamant they've seen one in the lake, but people brush it off. Now the myth has become reality."

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The baby (cute?) from 2005 is fact, but I can't help wondering about the new 7m report. It's possible of course, but it is really really unlikely to be a GW. Bull shark the more likely species, but too long. If it stays in the lake, it will certainly show up again. What's the entrance doing at present?

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The Entrance is pretty narrow and shallow looking but I think a fish that big can still get in/out at king tide.

The local paper said it chased mullet in. Does this mean we have to wait for the mullet to swim out before it's safe to go sailing?

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