EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. (WSVN) — A fisherman off the coast of southwest Florida caught a 3-foot shark — only to have his catch eaten by a goliath grouper.

Captain Jimmy Wheeler with Everglades Fishing Company said it happened during a fishing trip about 20 miles off the coast of Everglades City in the Gulf of Mexico.

Someone in his group had caught the shark, intending to catch and release. But as soon as he saw a large shadow, Wheeler knew it was destined to become the grouper’s meal.

That’s when the 500-pound fish swam up and gulped the small shark down, with the line still attached.

The fishermen wrestled with the grouper for several minutes until the line finally loosened as the fish spit out the shark.

Goliath groupers are sometimes called the “garbage disposals of the sea” because they’ll eat everything in sight, to the frustration of fishermen.

The fish can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh about 800 pounds. They are a protected species in Florida due to declining populations. Harvest and possession has been prohibited in both state and federal waters off the coast of the Sunshine State since 1990.

“Large goliath groupers should be left in the water during release. The skeletal structure of large goliath groupers cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says on its website. “If a large goliath is brought on-board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and therefore be considered harvested.”

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