Fishing trip cut short by leaping ray

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AUG. 11 - Three people fishing last Saturday on Wassaw Sound near Savannah, Ga., were startled when a spotted eagle ray leapt from the water, knocked one man from behind and landed in their boat.

Conor Sweitzer was aboard a 17-foot Glass Stream with friends Jessica Hedrick and Rob Richter, the boat’s owner, along with Richter’s border collie. The group had set out from Wilmington Island at about 6:30 a.m. for a day of fishing, a news report says. As Richter was about to drop anchor, he says he saw a spotted eagle ray jump out of the water, about 100 yards away.

Moments later, while Sweitzer was preparing his lure, the ray jumped again, this time nearly 5 feet into the air, the report says, slamming into Sweitzer’s back near his shoulders. After regaining his balance, Sweitzer jumped on top of the engine mount as the ray, estimated to measure nearly 5 feet across, flapped its fins. The thrashing ray reportedly damaged the pilot’s seat, and its barbed tail left welts on Richter’s ankles. The dog had to be held to keep her from jumping overboard.

“It was early in the morning and very peaceful, and all of a sudden it was like a bomb went off,” Richter says in the report.

When the ray calmed down, Richter, with the help of a man from a nearby boat, used gaffs to drag the nearly 100-pound, still-living ray over the side of the boat, the report says. The group reportedly then decided to abandon its fishing trip and go water skiing instead.

Jason Fell