Local fisherman Harley Robinson has caught bull sharks in the river before, but never anything like the size nor the type of catch he reeled in on Monday night.
After all the recent shark sightings, Harley was keen to try his luck at hooking a bronze whaler.
He set out a whole mullet as bait off Shelly Beach, Nambucca Heads, on NSW's North Coast on Friday evening.
"And I hooked a shark, but it took off and just spooled me," he said.
He tried again on Saturday, and then Sunday evening, but "the sharks just kept busting me off on the rocks".
He paddled bait out again on Monday evening at around 5pm. And by 6.30 he was on.
After a 10 to 15 minute fight that nearly pulled him into the water, he realised he'd finally landed one.
"I tried to get it in as quickly as I could so it still had a lot of energy left," he said.
"I cut the trace off, got a photo, then walked it back out into waist-deep water and watched it swim off."
It was only later he realised he'd caught a six-foot grey nurse shark - a protected species.
A New South Wales Fisheries survey in 2000 revealed that the number of grey nurses in the state could have been as low as 292 individuals then.
A recent CSIRO-led project has estimated the east coast population to have increased slightly to anywhere between 1000 and 3000 adults.
"I was shocked - I've been spear fishing out at the rocks a bit but I've never seen a grey nurse before," he said.
"I was really happy to see it swim off."
The experience left an impression on him - Harley is keen to continue fishing for sharks under the DPI's tag and release program, and is currently awaiting his tags in the mail.