Fisherman's 'unusual' run-in with crocodile during charter tour

David Leigh accidentally caught the crocodile while casting a net for live bait in the Bolhe River, just north of Townsville.

A lifelong fisherman is urging others to be crocwise after one of the reptiles decided it wanted to join his fishing tour.

David Leigh, owner of Fairdinkum Fishing Charters, admits he “got a little fright” after catching more than he bargained for in a cast net he tossed off his boat in the Bolhe River, just north of Townsville in Far North Queensland, on Friday.

“I’ve been fishing all my life and I’ve never experienced it before, and I've never seen it happen before either,” he told Yahoo News of the moment he “instantly” realised the attempt to gather live bait to lure in barramundi had taken a turn.

The crocodile's teeth caught in David Leigh's cast net in the Bolhe River, just north of Townsville.
David Leigh accidentally caught the crocodile in his cast net while on a charter tour in the Bolhe River, just north of Townsville, on Friday. Source: David Leigh

“Pretty much instantly I felt something really big in there and as I was pulling it up, I started to get glimpses and then realised that it was a crocodile.”

David said he released the net to let the croc escape but when he tried to bring it up again, he realised “it had got its top front teeth caught”.

Video shows the moment the crocodile wrestles with the net, twisting and slamming up against the boat, as the three people onboard frantically work to cut it free with pliers. “Watch your toes,” a woman can he heard saying. The reptile then drops back into the water and swims off.

“I've been throwing a cast in since I was nine-years-old and I’m 49 now, so 40 years of throwing a cast and I’ve never got one,” David said of the shocking incident. “Usually having a boat and an outboard motor running, they usually associate that with stress and basically, they don't want to be around boats. So it’s unusual, that it hadn’t moved on when I arrived in that area.”

Fisherman urges croc safety after net catch

David told Yahoo his wildlife run-in is another reminder to be crocwise, and credited a lesson he learned early on with preventing the accidental catch from becoming disastrous.

“We’ve come through the warmer months and they’re not as visible. They’re not basking in the sun as they do in winter so I do see more in wintertime than I do in the summertime,” he said.

“It’s important to make sure that when you’re using your cast net, that you’ve tied a knot up the top near the snare that goes around your wrist. So that’s something I do every time — the first thing I do when I get a new cast net is I tie a knot so that if need be, you can let go of the net.”

The crocodile hanging from the net and a person working to cut it free with pliers.
The group were able to free the crocodile from the net with a pair of pliers. Source: David Leigh

He explained the croc safety tip can prevent a fisherman or fisherwoman from losing a hand or being dragged overboard if a “big crocodile” was to get caught and pull on a cast net.

“It’s an extremely rare event but there’s always that possibility,” David said, adding that “making sure that you’ve got a really solid footing in the boat” is also necessary.

How to be crocwise when you are boating and fishing

The NT Government have shared a number of guidelines to keep safe in croc country.

  • Always be extra careful when you are around waterways

  • Stay alert when you are launching or retrieving your boat

  • Saltwater crocodiles have attacked people in boats, don’t lean out of your boat or dangle your arms or legs over the side, and remember the smaller the boat, the greater the risk

  • Stand at least five meters back from the water’s edge while fishing, and never stand on overhanging logs

  • Always dispose of your fishing rubbish well away from the water’s edge

  • Do not enter the water to retrieve a lure and get out of the water as quickly as possible if you fall in

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