Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

Great White!

05 February 2009

"Man eater!" Words calculated to strike fear into the heart of any one. The record breaking success of the film "Jaws" and its sequels was due entirely to the innate and abject horror at the thought of being suddenly attacked by the 'white death' from the sea. The excitement which people feel stems from the waiting, the suspense and the seemingly unpredictable nature of the final attack.

Just how realistic is this fear of the great white shark? How accurate is the picture of a cold blooded, cunning killer depicted by Peter Benchley's famous fictional fish? Well, of course, the great white, Carcharodon carcharias, is just like any other animal, a beautifully adapted survival machine which must be born, feed, grow, mate and ultimately die. It is certainly an effective predator and is a member of the family known as "mackerel sharks" which includes our own porbeagle and the less common mako.

In fact there are probably not very many great white sharks in existence. Scientific estimates suggest that there may be only a few thousand altogether. They swim in all the world's oceans from the shores of New Zealand to Nova Scotia and from California to Cape Town. The seas of China, Chile, Argentina and Australia are all home to great whites.

Although they prefer warmer waters the fish are known to range as far north as Iceland. Of course these sharks are BIG predators, second in size only to some toothed whales such as the orca. They may live for up to forty years and in that time reach as much as thirty feet in length and weights in the region of over one tonne. In fact the record, rod caught, great white weighed 1208 kg (2664 lb) and was caught in 1959 off Australia. There is a report of a much bigger one (3500lb) caught off Montauk. Even this is a mere tiddler compared to some extinct relatives of the "white" shark which were up to 90 feet long and must have weighed in excess of thirty tonnes (definitely a case of 'You gaff it!' as far as I'm concerned).

To fuel its great bulk this shark has to eat plenty of food. It feeds mainly on large fish such as tuna and bonito but will congregate to feed anywhere that suitable prey is to be found. Seals, sea lions, penguins, dolphins and other sharks are all eaten. A swimming or surfing man or woman would certainly not come amiss to a feeding shark and scientists actually use surf boards as artificial "lures" to attract great whites. Whatever its choice of meal the shark strikes with lethal force and with its gin-trap jaws wide spread. The razor sharp, bread-knife teeth take a firm grip and by twisting over the shark removes 50 kilogrammes (100lb plus) or more of flesh at a single bite (That would be most of me).

The great white is a long distance swimming machine. Not only can it smell blood in unbelievably tiny concentrations but it attacks with tremendous power and its bite has the force of a pile driver. Like the tiger or the lion on land surely the so called 'white death', now a protected species in many countries of the world, is a fish to be admired rather than feared. .

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com