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Fishermen say great white sharks are snagging their hard-earned catch

Jason Bearce had his striper torn in half by a great white shark while fishing in Cape Cod Bay last Friday.

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Jason Bearce had his striper torn in half by a great white shark while fishing in Cape Cod Bay last Friday.

It was like a paper-cutter slicing through a thick piece of paper, splitting the fish into two pieces with ease, said fisherman Jake Smith.

As the Plymouth resident reached his hand into the water last Friday night near Scorton Ledge, a popular fishing spot located between Sandwich and Barnstable in Cape Cod Bay, a great white shark appeared out of nowhere, sinking its teeth into the striper Smith had snagged on his line.

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“It was so fast,” Smith said. “It bit it like it cut it in half with a knife, just a very clean, fast bite.”

Smith had been out on the water late at night with his father and a few friends. He had been fighting with the striper, which he said weighed around 30 pounds, when he finally got the fish up to his boat.

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An experienced fisherman — he calls his hobby an addiction — Smith thought nothing of leaning out of the boat to bring the large catch onboard.

And then, there it was, he said — a 10- to 12-foot great white, its head and body clearly visible in the lights shining from the boat.

“It’s whole head came up and out of the water, and its back rubbed against the boat,” he said. “It circled around and then came back looking for the rest of [the fish].”

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Smith said that same night, a second fisherman nearby reported a similar run-in with a shark that apparently saw an easy meal for the taking.

When Jason Bearce reeled in a catch last Friday while fishing with his son off Sandy Neck Beach, only the fish’s head was left by the time it got to his boat. He told 7News that the shark had helped itself to his hard-earned striper.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the nonprofit group that’s been working with state officials for the last several years to document the great white population off of Cape Cod, posted a picture of Bearce’s torn-in-half fish online.

“We know white sharks are in the Bay, and there have been a lot of reports of them this season, so none of this is surprising to us,” said Cynthia Wigren, the conservancy’s president. “But it’s information we like to get out so that people know it’s occurring, and have an awareness of where these white sharks are.”

She said in the past, the conservancy has received pictures of bass that have been torn into by great whites.

“It’s pretty cool,” Wigren said. “There are reports of this happening this year, and we had reports of it happening last year.”

While many people think that great whites are merely interested in the abundance of seals that live along the state coastline, the predators are also fond of fish, she said.

“It’s an easy meal on the end of the line,” Wigren said. “Why not take the opportunity to grab it?”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
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