NET LOSS FOR THE NIGHT:  Commercial fisher Ron Brennan inspects the net shredded by sharks on Wednesday night.
NET LOSS FOR THE NIGHT: Commercial fisher Ron Brennan inspects the net shredded by sharks on Wednesday night. Madura McCormack

Fisherman's bizarre encounter with 'thousands' of sharks

JUST hours after Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick was mauled by a shark at Cid Harbour on Wednesday afternoon, commercial fisherman Ron Brennan witnessed something he'd never seen in Whitsunday waters before.

Oblivious to the attack at the time, Mr Brennan, who is based in Proserpine and has been fishing professionally for 31 years, took his 6m boat out to Repulse Bay area in hopes of catching some mackerel.

Dropping the anchor about 8pm, Mr Brennan said he had settled in for a cup of tea when he noticed something strange.

"I shot the net out and was having a cup of tea, sitting there on my swag when I noticed one side of the net wasn't moving as much as the other side," Mr Brennan said.

"I went to have a look and the net had sunk to the bottom and had taken the big buoy and everything down.

"We started winding it up and it was just shark on top of shark, on top of shark, on top of shark...

"It was all different species. We had the big tiger sharks coming along eating the smaller sharks out of the net and they were chewing the net around them and it was just a hell of a mess."

Mr Brennan, who was with his brother at the time, said he had never seen so many sharks in his life and was baffled by the incident.

"From a couple of nights earlier when we had the standard half a dozen sharks in the net to having (what seemed like) thousands... I wouldn't have got them in my boat. They would have sunk it three times over. I'd have needed a bigger boat," he said.

"I thought it was very out of the ordinary, especially on the hard bottom. Usually we find sharks on a muddy bottom. That quantity of shark and being where they were was very out of the ordinary.

"The water is starting to warm up so you see sharks coming in, we have a couple of big green zones out there and net-free zones ... but there was about half a dozen different species of shark so I'm not really sure why it happened.

"I have heard there could be a whale carcass rotting in the area but I haven't seen it myself."

Fishing about 2km south of Mr Brennan was his father, who he says had the same experience. The group were out at sea until about 1.30am Thursday working to remove the sharks from their nets.

"It was pretty full on. There was no time for rest, we all got a big workout that night," Mr Brennan said.

"I was a bit buggered the next day and a bit sore from just dealing with all the sharks. I don't want to go through that again, it was a bit painful.

"We just had to get them out and throw them back. They were anything from 3-8 foot (1-2m). Some bull sharks were around the 4-5 foot (1.2-1.5m)."

After the ordeal with the sharks, Mr Brennan finished the night with one queen fish, four mackerel and a severely damaged net.

Mr Brennan said he was about 25km from the area where Mrs Barwick, 46, was attacked on Wednesday and where 12-year-old Hannah Papps of Melbourne was mauled on Thursday afternoon.

Mrs Barwick remains in a stable condition in the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital intensive care unit.

She was airlifted from Mackay Base Hospital on Thursday night.

Over the weekend Hannah Papps was fighting for her life in the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.

In response to the attacks, baited drum lines were on Friday deployed in the Whitsundays for the first time by the Department of Fisheries.

Two tiger sharks, both believed to be less than 4m long, were shot by Queensland Fisheries' officers after they were caught in the drum lines on Saturday.

The drum lines will remain in place for at least a week.