Auburndale Police Chief Andy Ray said two men, 18-year-old Trey Pitts and 20-year-old Christopher Cordell, were fishing at Lake Stella when Cordell’s line snagged on something.
When Cordell reeled it in, the two men realized they had pulled a man’s body to shore.
“I was very shocked,” Cordell said. “My mind is kind of blown because … the last thing I’d ever imagine to reel in would be a dead body. So it’s kind of nerve taking in many ways.”
Pitts said they had no idea what they were reeling in. But he had suspicions because the day before, he found a pair of shoes by the water and saw something he didn’t recognize.
“We thought it was kind of weird. So the next day, I came back [to the lake] by myself,” Pitts said.
After catching a fish, he phoned Cordell to see if he wanted to fish, too.
“And so we walked down there. By that time, [the floating object] was about halfway across the lake. And we were, like, maybe it’s a mannequin, maybe a big piece of driftwood,” Pitts said.
They decided to get closer to it and once they hooked it and got it about 10 feet away from them, they realized it was a body.
Pitss’ father, Brian, who came to help them, said they were adamant over the phone that they weren’t joking.
“I get down there, and sure enough, what do you know? (It was) what they said it was … I mean, you could see the guy’s tattoos and things of that nature. … Soon as I seen it, that’s when I called the police and got them down there.”
According to police, the body is that of a 40-year-old homeless man. There were no obvious signs of trauma on the body, but an autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.
Police are still working on finding the man’s next of kin.
They believe the body was in the water for 24 to 48 hours.
NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.