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'Monster' sixgill shark caught off Irish coast

Sixgill shark caught by Ben Bond Image copyright Ben Bond
Image caption The sixgill shark, photographed from the boat Ben Bond was fishing from

A "monster" shark, believed to be the biggest sixgill ever caught on a fishing rod in Europe, has been hooked off the Irish coast at County Clare.

The huge fish was estimated to be about 7.5m (25ft) long and is thought to have weighed about 680kg (1,500 lbs).

Englishman Ben Bond made the catch off Loop Head on Thursday, and struggled single-handed for about an hour and a half to bring the shark to the surface.

After an exhausting battle, the sixgill was eventually unhooked and released.

'Excited'

Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Bond said that at one point, he looked directly into the shark's jaws which were "absolutely massive".

Sixgills are a deep water shark which mainly feed on fish, including other sharks, but they are also thought to prey on seals.

Mr Bond said feeling the shark take the bait was a thrilling experience, and he admitted no fear as he reeled the mammoth creature in.

"I wasn't scared. I was excited, it was what I came to do," he said.

The 26-year-old builder has had some big catches before, including blue sharks, but had never hooked anything as large as the sixgill.

'Monster of the deep'

The shark was released a few minutes after it was brought up alongside the boat and Mr Bond said it was always his intention to put it back into the water.

"Watching it swim away was probably the best part, I wouldn't want to kill such an impressive creature," Mr Bond said.

Image copyright Luke Aston
Image caption The sixgill shark was caught on fisherman Ben Bond's line off Loop Head in County Clare

Its measurements were estimated by the skipper of the boat, Luke Aston, an experienced angler who has been catching sharks in the area for nine years.

The Republic of Ireland's main fishing authority, Inland Fisheries Ireland, agreed with the skipper's estimation and hailed the sixgill as a "true monster of the deep".

Its spokeswoman told BBC News NI: "As the shark was caught and released, it was not weighed on shore so the exact weight cannot be verified for certain.

"However, it does look like this shark is one of the biggest fish ever caught on rod on line in Europe."

She added: "This type of fishing is legal - the angler practised 'catch and release' fishing which means that the fish was not killed and was released back into the water."

Image copyright Luke Aston
Image caption Skipper Luke Aston (top) with Ben Carter, who caught another sixgill two days earlier

Mr Aston runs an angling centre in County Clare and captains recreational fishing trips.

He said they had been specifically targeting sixgills on that trip, and while it was not unusual to see them around Loop Head, catching a shark of this size was very rare.

Two days earlier, his boat had won Fishing in Ireland's "Catch of the Week" title for a 410kg (900 lbs) sixgill in the same area.

That prize-winning fish was landed last Tuesday by Mr Bond's friend, Ben Carter.

Mr Aston referred to the friends as "Big Ben and Little Ben" and said the fish that got away from Mr Bond was much larger.

The skipper said most of his clients practice 'catch and release' but some sharks are brought ashore.

He said the carcasses attract much interest from scientists who weigh and examine the sharks.

Mr Aston added that flesh of most of their catches eventually ends up on dinner table.

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