Bronwyn Huband and Land Nichols - January 17, 2006 00:00 EST

A Nelson woman has reeled in the catch of her life – a 2.6-metre shark – during a fishing trip off D'Urville Island.

Rachael Young, 34, of Mapua, caught what is believed to be a bull shark near Port Hardy on Saturday after a week-long fishing trip to catch snapper and cod.

If confirmed, it will be the first bull shark found in New Zealand waters.

Experts say the fish are very aggressive and among the four most dangerous shark species in the world, along with the tiger, great white and oceanic white tip.

Three bull sharks are thought to have killed 21-year-old Sarah Kate Whiley earlier this month at Amity Pt off Queensland's North Stradbroke Island.

Ms Young struggled to hold the catch on her deep-sea fishing line with an extra-strength braid line, before her friend Dennis Crawford attached an anchor winch to ease the load.

It took about 45 minutes to get the shark on board their yacht.

"It didn't put up a big fight but it pulled me back a bit," Ms Young said.

During the struggle to land the shark, she thought about what her friends would think of her catch and knew she had to keep it as proof for when she got home.

"I just thought, this is going to be a good story."

She was not sure whether the big chunk of barracouta on the end of her line had been what tempted the shark.

It was thought the shark may have been pregnant or sick, which was why it was so close to shore.

Touch the Sea Aquarium owner Murray Goss believed it was a bull shark, which were found mostly in tropical seas.

Te Papa fishes collection manager Andrew Stewart said the shark would be frozen and couriered to the museum for examination and identification.

"If it is a bull shark it will be the first. It's a fairly significant occurrence if it is here.

"They're aggressive, they've got broad, serrated, triangular teeth. Some specialists believe they are responsible for the majority of shark attacks around the world."

He said bull sharks could grow up to 3.5m in length. They were capable of surviving in fresh water and had been found thousands of kilometres up rivers.

They sometimes travelled in small groups.

Fishermen have meanwhile reported sightings this month of a great white shark off the Taranaki coast.