Matt Pieciak was playing a game of cornhole on Nauset Beach around noon on Sunday when there was a sudden pull on his fishing pole, which he had propped up in the sand near the shoreline.
“Does he have a fish?” someone called out after Pieciak left the game to investigate.
It was, indeed, a fish — but not the kind Pieciak was hoping for.
After a brief tug of war, a pair of sharp fins breached the water, roughly 50 yards from the beach. Everyone nearby gasped.
It took only a few moments for Pieciak, who grew up visiting Cape Cod and has lived in Orleans for the past two years, to realize he had hooked a great white shark.
“By the time I grabbed the rod, the shark was on the line,” he said.
Pieciak, 25, said he had been camping Saturday with his girlfriend, Autumn, on the beach. The next morning, a mix of family and friends joined them just south of the public beach area for a small get-together.
Pieciak said his dad brought down chunks of mackerel so that they could try to catch some fish while they all relaxed by the water.
“I wanted to go surfing but the tide got too high, so we decided to go fishing,” he said. “We cast a couple of lines out there hoping to catch a bass or a bluefish, or something.”
Pieciak went about his day, leaving the rod upright in the sand. Then he saw the rod “go off” behind his cousin, Cal, and ran toward it.
“I said ‘Dude, hold my beer,’ and grabbed the rod,” he said. “And it all kind of happened quickly from there.”
Pieciak said he looked to see if he could figure out what was on the line. Then he saw it.
“This big, gray shadow was right where the line went into the water — way too big to be a seal,” he said.
Or a bass.
Pieciak said it’s likely that a large fish initially took his bait before the shark went after the fish. He estimated the shark was about 12 feet long.
“It was just the food chain: fish took bait, shark took fish,” he said.
In a video shared with the Globe, Pieciak is holding the fishing rod a few feet from the breakers. In the distance, the shark is seen thrashing in the water, its fins protruding from the surface.
In the background, people can be heard saying, “You caught a shark!? Are you serious!?”
Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the shark twisted and was gone.
“He spit it out,” Pieciak says in the video.
Pieciak said as soon as he put a bit of pressure on the line, the shark “took off.”
A spokesperson from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a nonprofit that works with state officials to tag and track sharks off Cape Cod, confirmed that the fish in the video was a great white.
It’s not uncommon for great white sharks to go after a fisherman’s catch. In the past few years, captains and passengers have reported having their meals torn from the ends of their fishing lines while on charter boats off Cape Cod and in Cape Cod Bay.
But this incident was a “little bit different,” Pieciak said.
”What’s crazy about this was how close to the beach it was,” he said. “People had been surfing there, I had been surfing there that day and the day before. We spent the whole week surfing right where that happened.”
Although the shark was close to shore, Pieciak stressed that people shouldn’t be worried about great white sharks, as long as they’re cautious and alert and follow safety guidelines.
“I think being aware of them is the biggest thing,” he said.