Sustainable Fishing, Marine Biology & Conservation
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Wednesday
May092012

White Shark (a.k.a "great white")

*photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (not used in the book)

(Carcharodon carcharias)

There's not much I can possibly say about white sharks that hasn't already be published, aired in hundreds of documentaries, or of course made into a movie. I'd wish I could claim to be an authority on the species, but in more than 30-years of sharking I've only had the opportunity to examine five dead ones (all brought in by other anglers) and encounter five offshore, one of which we tagged and released, Another we watched (with no intention to drop it a bait) for 45 minutes as it swam behind the boat, two that we hooked and lost, and one the wouldn't take a bait. I've also had the opportunity to interview a lot of anglers who have either caught, or encountered great whites while fishing.

I guess from my own limited experience I can say a few things that might shed a different light on this rather famous shark. First, anglers have to keep in mind that white sharks are (rightfully) a prohibited species, so they're protected from being killed. This in itself should be a wake-up call for anyone who thinks they might want to drop a bait down into the maw of one of these monsters.

Something else anglers should know about white sharks: it may be a little scary to think about but these are not exclusively deep-water sharks. While it's true that off the East Coast they're not very abundant in the first place, and when they are found, they're typically a comfortable distance offshore; they're also a species that will come into the nearshore waters if they have a reason. Four of the five white sharks we encountered while fishing for small sharks within five miles of the coast.