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Family on fishing trip spots great white shark off Plum Island

A great white shark was caught on video by a family who was out fishing off Plum Island Saturday afternoon.
A great white shark was caught on video by a family who was out fishing off Plum Island Saturday afternoon.Michael Lemire

Michael Lemire was fishing with family off Plum Island Saturday afternoon when he spotted a dark silhouette moving toward their boat. But instead of a finding a large fish near his line, he soon realized it wasn’t something he wanted to catch.

“I was just trying to figure out what it was at first,” Lemire said. “Being that close to shore, I didn’t expect to see a shark that close. But it’s the ocean and you know there are sharks around.”

A young great white shark that was about 6 to 8 feet long was circling the boat Lemire and his father, brother, and nephew were fishing on. The shark left after it took a pass around the vessel and the family’s submerged fishing lines, but came back about 15 minutes later.

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Lemire got up on the boat’s bow and took a video of the shark, which he later sent to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. You can say you saw something but no one will believe it unless they see it, too,” Lemire said.

The shark never touched their baited lines and left soon after. Lemire said he didn’t try to follow it.

“We knew we weren’t going to catch any striped bass with a shark in the water,” he said.

This was the second shark sighting off Plum Island within three days, said John Chisholm, a shark researcher who works closely with the Division of Marine Fisheries. Another great white shark that was about 8 feet long was seen in the same spot on Thursday.

“It makes sense that they saw the sharks there because there is a lot of bait and striped bass up there right now, and we typically see these smaller sharks feeding on schools of fish,” Chisholm said.

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Only a few credible shark sightings are documented off the North Shore each year, compared to the dozens of sharks that are often spotted off Cape Cod in the summer alone.

This partly has to do with more seals living in the Cape, where adult great white sharks between 12 and 20 feet long are frequently seen between May and late November each year.

Chisholm said more sharks are attracted to the Cape because of a larger concentration of seals there. But he has received reports of seals with shark bites washing up on Plum Island over the years.

“This is a good reminder that all of Massachusetts’ coast is home to great white sharks,” Chisholm said. “From Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod and up to the North Shore, that’s all great white habitat.”

Lemire lives in Ipswich and fishes in the area often. This was the first time he’s seen a shark while on the ocean.

“It’s something you might only see once in a lifetime, especially being in a boat with your family,” Lemire said. “We didn’t catch anything that day, but it’s one of those experiences we’ll always have.”

If you see a shark, Chisholm said to keep your distance, take pictures if you can, and report the sighting on the Conservancy’s Sharktivity app. You can also email the sighting to Chisholm directly at masssharks@gmail.com.

Caroline Enos can be reached at caroline.enos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

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