A Canadian fisherman made a once in a lifetime catch when he hooked a great white shark in the Gulf of Mexico.

The giant fish with a ferocious reputation was so big that it looked like a submarine when Fab Marchese spotted what was end of his line.

The feared great white, which is one of nature's most finely honed killing machines, dragged the boat containing Marchese and captain Joe Maisiano around for three hours.

Maisiano said he had seen nothing like it in 12 years of laying on fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico for anglers with his firm, Go Fast Fishing Charters.

"It looked like a submarine. With a tail. It was like a slow steady pull, I mean great whites are not very fast sharks, so it was a slow, solid weight," said Maisiano.

"He was anywhere from 16-18 feet [long] and it could have weighed from 2,500-4,000 pounds. That is what the experts are telling us."

Seeing a great white shark is rare enough in the region and the chance of catching one on a line is slim. The creature was drawn to the Donzi boat by lumps of bloody flesh dropped in to the water by Maisiano. Then it took a bite on the baited fishing line.

Maisiano told ABC: "I have seen Jaws enough times to know what they look like.

"It just smelled the blood in the water, because we have been sitting there for several hours and he just wanted to come up and get some food."

Marchese and Maisiano could not land the great white shark because the creature is a protected species and killing one can result in a fine between $25,000 and $40,000. So they let it go, but only after capturing lots of footage of their sensational catch.