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State Record Thresher Shark Caught

December 1, 2004

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife has certified a new state record thresher shark.

Chris Chalmers of Narberth, Pennsylvania caught a 617-pound thresher shark on October 8, thereby claiming record status. The huge shark was taken off Cape May and weighed three pounds more than the previous record caught off Cape May in 2003.

Chalmers was out fishing with friends on the privately owned boat, Irish Mist, on the morning of October 8. Captain Ed Donovan and Mate Doug Fell started the group off chunking with butterfish in an area southeast of Cape May known as the “Cigar.” The 80-pound test line Chalmers was using was baited with mackerel and ready to be tossed overboard.

At 10:20 a.m., the thresher took the bait. Chalmers, who ironically is not an avid fisherman, fought the giant shark for two and a half hours before it could finally be landed.

The thresher measured 15 feet 10 inches in length with an 86-inch tail, and sported an impressive 63-inch girth. The shark was in fact so big, the team had to tow it back to the dock!

Congratulations Chris!

Thresher sharks are found throughout most of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the western North Atlantic, they are commonly found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida. Adult threshers prefer coastal and offshore waters to 1,000 feet below the surface while juveniles can be found farther inshore. They are named for their enormously long tail fin, which is curved like the blade of a scythe.

Thresher sharks are stout-bodied with short, blunt snouts. They range in color from dark brown to blue-gray to black with a white belly. They feed mainly on small schooling fishes such as bluefish, herring, menhaden and mackerel, which the shark rounds up and stuns with blows from its powerful tail.

Thresher sharks are considered to be essentially harmless to humans because their teeth are small and smooth-edged.

The Record Fish Program recognizes the largest species of fish caught in the state. It revolves around a specific list of eligible freshwater and saltwater species, and is based on weight alone; there are no line classes. Scale certification documentation, including the Certificate of Inspection/Test Report and Registration Certificate issued by the New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures, as well as a weighmaster’s signature, are necessary. Other rules apply.

For more information or to request an application, call 609-633-7768. Visit the Division’s Website at for a complete list of state record fish.

See photo.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: December 1, 2004