Fisherman Tony Pijacun thought a stingray had tangled itself in his mullet net just 10 metres off the rocks at Solomons Point on the Whangārei Harbour.

So when he was swimming the net back to shore thinking it was full of mullet plus one stingray he was surprised to discover a 2.8 metre bronze whaler shark on Thursday evening.

"I went out to get the net and it was all tangled. I was thinking it was a stingray so waited for the tide to go out a little bit first."

He swam out to the net, dragging it slowly back. He still thought it was a stingray.

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"I could feel the net moving around," he said.

Tony Pijacun, left, swam his fishing net back to shore thinking he had a stingray while his sister Andrea has plans to make the 2.8 metre shark into delicious dishes. Photo/ Michael Cunningham
Tony Pijacun, left, swam his fishing net back to shore thinking he had a stingray while his sister Andrea has plans to make the 2.8 metre shark into delicious dishes. Photo/ Michael Cunningham

It was when Tony saw the distinctive tail fin he realised he had netted a much bigger fish than normal and one with much sharper teeth than a regular mullet, snapper or parore.

The huge fish was dragged ashore but it was too late to release it.

Tony said a good whack with a jandal was the test to see how much life was left. The male shark was close to death. The net had been set about 5am on Thursday and it was 6pm when Tony went to retrieve it.

Andrea Pijacun, Tony's sister, said there were swimmers nearby but once they saw what was in the net they quickly made their way out to the boat ramp near the popular jetty at the boating club.

"They were gone real quickly," she laughed.

She was not game to touch the shark, with sandpaper like skin, until it was dead.

Tony and his two younger cousins used a four-wheel drive vehicle to pull the shark up the beach and hang it in a tree on their front lawn.

Tony had plans to smoke the fish today in an onsite smoker using tea tree.

Andrea said while there were smaller sharks in Parua Bay she was surprised to see such a big one so close to shore.

"We've grown up here and never seen such a big one. It's not until you see them out of the water like this you realise how big they are."

As an experienced chef Andrea was looking forward to producing some culinary delights with the shark.

The bronze whaler shark caught in a net off Parua Bay, Whangarei Harbour.
The bronze whaler shark caught in a net off Parua Bay, Whangarei Harbour.

"There are all sorts of dishes but it will have a bit of a gamey flavour. I'll put it in with some summer veges and it will go well with Asian flavours.''

Tony said he was going to reset the net again today and this time round he was hoping for just mullet.

With the increase in people using the nearby boat ramp and gutting fish there, it could possibly be attracting the sharks closer to shore.