A Maryland woman on a fishing trip off the Florida coast was taken to hospital after a 100lb sailfish leaped from the water on to her boat and impaled her with its bill.
Katherine Perkins, 73, was wounded in the groin in the attack, which happened last week. According to a report from the Martin county sheriff’s department which the Guardian obtained on Monday, she said the fish moved so fast she did not have time to react.
The fish which stabbed Perkins was caught on a line about two miles off Stuart, Florida.
Two men on the boat with Perkins, Louis Toth and Dominic Bellezza, “stated Louis had a fish on the line and was attempting to bring it aboard”, according to the sheriff’s report.
The fish “was identified as a sailfish and … it began to charge at the boat”, the report added. “Louis and Dominic indicated the sailfish jumped out of the water and stabbed Katherine in the groin area while she was standing next to the center console.”
The two men “immediately put pressure on the wound”, then met responding officers on shore.
Perkins was flown to a hospital.
Sailfish are reputed to be the fastest fish in the ocean, capable of swimming up to 68mph, growing up to 11ft and weighing as much as 220lb.
As described by National Geographic, they are “blue to gray in colour with white underbellies. They get their name from their spectacular dorsal fin that stretches nearly the length of their body and is much higher than their bodies are thick.
“They are members of the billfish family and have an upper jaw that juts out well beyond their lower jaw and forms a distinctive spear.”
A 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B described how sailfish use their bill to hunt, “to either tap on individual prey targets or to slash through the school [of sardines] with powerful lateral motions characterised by one of the highest accelerations ever recorded in an aquatic vertebrate.
“They are found near the ocean surface, usually far from land, feeding on schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which they often shepherd with their sails, making them easy prey. They also feast on squid and octopus.”
The Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission says sailfish “are known for their fast runs, acrobatic jumps and head-shaking attempts to throw a hook”.
It also says “sailfish tire easily and should be revived after a long fight to ensure their survival. Most anglers release these fish.”