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Something fishy happened at the Regents Canal last week when a baffled angler hoping to net some pike, caught a vicious 18in snapping turtle instead.

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Tony Morris was particularly surprised by the catch - because he knew the turtles are normally only found in Mexico or North America.

The 21-year-old, of Goldsmith Road, Haggerston, said: “I’d been fishing with my dad, but unfortunately it hadn’t been a good night because it had been raining and the canal was too muddy, so we were going home at about 11.30pm.

“We were shining the torch as we walked along, and we spotted a big round shape in the water.

“I got my fishing net out and when we pulled it out it was snapping at us, and I knew it was a snapping turtle because I’ve seen them on documentaries.”

The quick-thinking fisherman told his dad to film the creature, while he carefully held its shell so it couldn’t bite him.

But before they could take a still photograph, the turtle managed to slip out of his grasp and dived back into the canal, near The Perseverance pub at the bottom of Broadway Market on Saturday, July 14.

“In the past, I’ve caught all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect in the canal, like crabs, eels, and American crayfish,” said Tony, “but the snapping turtle is the most unusual thing I’ve ever caught!”

The Gazette’s photographer met Tony on Tuesday to take a snap of him, but as she was leaving Tony excitedly called her back because the turtle surfaced just in time to have his picture taken too.

Once again, the wily creature managed to dive back into the water and escape.

Amphibian and reptile expert Dr Ian Stephen, curator for herpetology at London Zoo, confirmed it was a snapping turtle.

“It’ll be an unwanted pet that someone’s released,” he said. “It’s a big problem. People buy them when they’re quite small and cute, but when they get to the size of a dinner plate they are capable of taking a little kid’s finger off.”

• It’s illegal to release a non-native or “alien” species into the wild. If you spot the turtle, call the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) on 0300 1234 999 so officers can collect it.

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