A woman from Alabama was fishing in a tournament when something really unexpected happened: a large, pregnant eagle ray jumped into her boat. “We were both in the wrong place at the wrong time,” angler April Jones told AL.com. “I thought we hit a wave. The water came in. I felt like something was hitting me. I didn’t know what it was. I just saw a drop.
Well, the drop was a 5-foot, over 400-pound spotted eagle ray who was pregnant with four cubs. He jumped off the back of Jones’ boat while Jones was fishing in the 2022 Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo in the Gulf of Mexico. The stingray may have been trying to escape a predator when it launched itself out of the water and into the boat. Jones’ husband was driving the boat when the incident happened. While the ray was on board, she gave birth to four cubs, which did not survive.
The couple, in addition to their 8-year-old son and Jones’ husband’s grandfather, were unable to lift the beam out of the vessel. They drove to a boat launch with the stingray on board, took pictures of the big fish, and recruited a few other people to help them get the animal back in the water.
“The nature of large rays like this is sometimes to fly,” Brian Jones, senior aquarist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s estuarium, told AL.com. The aquarist arrived in port shortly after the Jones family arrived with their cargo without exception. The female stingray was already back in the water, but Brian Jones picked up the four dead cubs for the search. The rays normally hatch internally and then carry them until they are developed enough for birth and separation from the mother. It was unclear how ready the puppies had to be to be born.
According to WKRG, April Jones went to the emergency room for a sprained shoulder she suffered during the incident. Despite her injury, she fished the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo the next day and managed to catch a skilled black drum while fishing from a pier.
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“We did our best to keep the mum alive until we could get help,” Jones shared on Facebook. “We are devastated that the babies did not survive, but there was nothing we could have done.”