PHOTOS: Giant Spotted Eagle Ray Leaps Into Boat, Decks Woman Fishing

by Lauren Boisvert

In bizarre outdoor news, last week during the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, April Jones and her family had a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with marine life. While Jones, her husband, their 8-year-old son, and her husband’s grandfather were minding their own business on their boat, just fishing away, a pregnant spotted eagle ray leaped out of the water and landed on the back of their boat.

“I thought we hit a wave. Water came in. I felt like something hit me. I didn’t know what it was, I just saw a blob,” Jones told later. The incident sent Jones to the emergency room, as the ray hit her when it jumped. But the most bizarre aspect of this story is that the 400-pound ray was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to four pups on the back of the Jones’ boat, but none of them survived, unfortunately.

The Jones family couldn’t get the ray back in the water, it was so heavy. Field and Stream speculated that the ray could have been trying to escape from a predator, and leaped onto the boat out of fear, then gave birth due to extreme stress.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium senior aquarist Brian Jones arrived on the scene when the Jones’ returned to a boat ramp. They still had the ray on board, but with the help of kind strangers, got the ray back in the water. Brian Jones told, “The nature of large rays like this is to sometimes go airborne.” So it’s possible that the ray just chose to leap from the water at that time and didn’t count on there being a boat in the way. Jones collected the four deceased pups for study at the Sea Lab Estuarium.

Huge Spotted Eagle Ray Leaps Onto Boat, Stress-Births Four Pups

The giving birth aspect was unusual. Judging by the fact that all four pups died, it’s possible that they were not yet ready to separate from their mother. Spotted eagle rays reproduce through internal fertilization. They their young and sustain them through yolk sacs instead of a placenta, according to Oceana. The spotted eagle ray only gives birth when their young can survive on their own. This particular ray has very low birth rates already, which contributes to them being considered a Near Threatened species.

All in all, April Jones was lucky she wasn’t hit with the ray’s tail. Spotted eagle rays have venomous barbs on their tails that they use against predators. Jones only went to the hospital with a sprained shoulder from the incident. She was able to fish in the Rodeo the next day.

“We did the best we could to keep the mama alive until we could get help,” Jones explained when she posted the photos on Facebook. “We are devastated the babies did not survive, but there was nothing we could have done.”