Three Baltimore area men hauled a 475-pound shark from the Chesapeake Bay after a three-hour predawn struggle Sunday. They made their catch from a boat not much larger than the shark.

State officials said the 9-foot, 4-inch bull shark pulled from the water near here is one of the largest caught in the inland waterway in recent years.

Robert Arndt, 32, Douglas Stover, 28, and Glenn Hardy, 35, were fishing in a 14-foot boat a mile off Sandy Point near Annapolis at about 3 a.m. Sunday when the shark bit.

"I was about to sit down in my 14-foot bass boat to light a cigarette when -- wham! -- the shark took the bait," said Arndt, a stonemason.

The shark, which dove to about 60 feet, pulled out nearly 200 yards of metal line in less than eight seconds, he estimated.

"None of us could believe what was happening," he added.

Jeffrey Ruark, a state park ranger, said, "We seldom see sharks that big." But he added that sharks are not uncommon that far into the bay, especially when a dearth of rain makes the bay saltier than normal.

Arndt, Stover and Hardy said they fought the shark until dawn as it headed south from near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toward Annapolis and the open sea.

"We didn't have those fancy chairs you find on oceangoing fishing boats where people sit and place the fishing rod in a metal tube," Arndt said.

"Instead, I had to kneel in the stern and hold on for dear life while one of the other guys steered the boat and the other waited for the shark to tire."

When the shark finally slowed after about five miles, the men realized that their next problem would be getting nearly 9 1/2 feet of shark into a 14-foot boat.

"When we saw what we had and how big it was, we could hardly speak," Arndt said.

Once the three managed to get a rope around the shark's head and hook it with a gaff, it took four shots from a .357-caliber Magnum handgun at point-blank range to kill it, he said.

Park rangers at Sandy Point helped the three maneuver the shark onto a floating dock, from which they were able to dump it into the boat. Once they were ashore, a tow truck hoisted the shark onto Arndt's pickup truck.

Arndt said the shark will be cast in a mold by a Carroll County taxidermist. "His mouth was more than wide enough to swallow a small child," Arndt said, holding open the shark's mouth to show off the rows of teeth.

Arndt said he and his friends hooked a shark a week ago and again Friday, but at one point they cut a line when it appeared that one of the men might fall overboard.

"Sharks are out there," he said. "Believe me, they are out there."