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Species Profile: Great White Shark (Carcharodon Carcharias)

Author: Terra Firma Tackle

Facts About Great Whites

NOTE: Great White Sharks Are Protected in Most of Their Range. Do Not Intentionally Target These Sharks. This Article Is Not Intended to Encourage Fishing For Great White Sharks

Species Info:

              The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is the largest predatory shark on the planet. White Sharks are the largest member of the mackerel shark family which includes other species such as Mako, Porbeagle and Salmon sharks. Easily distinguishable from the other members of the family by their large size, triangular teeth and black tipped pectoral fins, these fish are rumored to reach sizes over 18 feet, but the largest recorded and measured fish was just over 17’ long. As such a monumental creature they have been protected in most of their range, and as a result should not be targeted directly. However, many of them are hooked incidentally by landbased anglers each year and the vast majority are lost due to the sharks size, fighting ability and dental work.


                Pointer, White, The One, Taxman, Bycatch

General Information:

                Most White Sharks encountered by fishermen in California will be hooked on piers. These fish, when present, are usually smaller specimens, under 8 feet in length and are often readily hooked on any bait in the water. Despite this frequency of encounters and willingness to bite, many more White Sharks are hooked and lost than hooked and landed.

                When incidentally hooked, White Sharks can either be enormously difficult to subdue, or seemingly docile on the line. The fight is best described as large head shakes, numerous spectacular jumps and a few very long runs, but not fast at all like most other pelagic sharks. For most smaller fish that may be hooked accidentally, lighter tackle is usually up to the task. Multiple smaller specimens have been brought pier-side on line in the 60lb class, although many of these fish are still very green and break the angler off at the pier. Most anglers that are successful in taming these accidental hook ups opt for a braided line such as Bullbuster Braid ( with a long “rub leader” or shock leader of monofilament. This shock leader is important as a result of the Pointer’s tendency to roll in the fishing line. Usually 10-12 feet of heavy mono such as Bullbuster Leader Material ( is used as a rub leader to make sure the angler lands their quarry, whatever species that may be.

                Occasionally larger grade Great White sharks are encountered from the surf while fishing for Sevengill and Soupfin sharks. These fish, like their smaller brethren hooked on piers, are usually lost due to tackle that simply isn’t up to the task. Unlike bringing these fish pier-side, surf-hooked whites tend to be much more difficult to subdue on light tackle and those that are landed are usually landed on heavy landbased shark gear with line in the 80lb+ class. Long sections of cable and heavy mono rub leaders are a requirement when landbased sharking in general, and both of these standard rigging features lead to more whites being landed on the sand when hooked than from the planks. As a general rule, the more cable or wire the rig has, the better the chance of seeing the shark that eats the bait, this is especially true for pointers when they decide to consume baits meant for other fish.


                White sharks can be found all along the Southern California coast, but Los Angeles County and Ventura both seem to have the highest concentrations of these massive predators. Unfortunately, many of the best locations to target Sevengills, Threshers, and Soupfin Sharks also tend to hold the most White Sharks which can lead to many nuisance hook ups, and if not rigged properly, many lost fish.


                Juvenile Great Whites are most abundant in California during the winter time, when there are less beach goers and less chance of an encounter with a swimmer. That is not to say that the occasional fish will not be hooked during the summer as well!

Special Considerations:

                Shark fishing is full of surprises, and hooking a Great White is quite the rush when it does happen. Due to their potential size and enormous weight they can and do fight harder than most any other species of fish one is likely to hook from land. However, please exercise extreme caution when handling these fish on the beach. Respect the animal and remove the hook and gear as quickly as possible. Do not pause for photographs, do not delay the release of the fish in any way. Do whatever it takes to release the fish in the best condition possible while at the same time preserving your own safety. Obey all laws when fishing, including those protecting these magnificent species from intentional targeting and harm!

Thanks for reading! For more information and rigs for landbased shark fishing please check out our own website at!


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