shark

Conway selectmen hastily erected this sign along the Saco but want to assure locals there's no danger from the Great White sharks. (COURTESY PHOTO0

BARTLETT — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the river ...

Beaches along the Saco River were closed this weekend, following the escape of a giant "Jaws"-sized freshwater Great White Shark into a tributary of the local waterway.

The escape happened as the large, man-eating creature was being transferred from a holding tank into the the soon-to-open Living Shores Aquarium at the former Heritage New Hampshire next to Story Land in Glen.

Already, officials have found the carcasses of a few half-eaten beaver and other mammals tossed along the banks of the river, including near the Saco Covered Bridge in Conway, a popular summer swimming spot.

But downplaying the danger posed to waders, kayakers and smelt fishermen this April Fool’s/Easter Weekend due to fears about impacting tourism, aquarium and Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce officials said there is little need to worry.

“We’re asking everyone to remain calm. We’re just glad it didn’t happen in summer when more swimmers would be in the river. There’s no need for panic — but do keep an eye out for this shark, who like its saltwater cousin depicted in ‘Jaws,’ measures a good 25 feet long,” said Janice Crawfish, executive director of the MWV Chamber, who said aquarium officials are offering a season pass as a bounty to anyone who can catch the shark.

She said there is no reason to close the beaches in Fryeburg, located downriver from Glen and Conway, and where she is a selectman.

“The river is important to our economy, so we don’t need any bad publicity about this, if you catch my drift,” she said, in an off-the-record remark, sounding strangely like the fictional Mayor Larry Vaughan of Amity Island in “Jaws.”

When notified of the missing shark, Jake Cuddyhunk, Crawfish’s counterpart at the MWV Economic Council, cried infringement on the council’s “Start Tank” program, based on ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank” program.

“Janice is always wading into our waters,” he lamented (also off the record).

Fish and Game officials ask that if anyone sees the shark (or hears that strange “Dhn-dhn-dnh-dnh” music pounding in their ears when they go near the river), to call them at 1-356-SHARK.

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