Author: Terra Firma Tackle
Species Profile : Leopard Shark (Triakis Semifasciata)
Leopard Sharks (Triakis semifasciata) are the second largest member of the dogfish family to be found in California and are common along the shoreline and in the bays in most of its range. Easily recognizable by their attractive spotted pattern, these fish can be found from Northern California to Baja and are numerous throughout their range depending on the season. They feed on or near the bottom and bear live young like other members of the family. Leopard Sharks can reach over 6 feet in length although most will be between 4 and 5 feet.
Leopard, Leo, Spotted Surf Kitty, Ronkie
Leopard Sharks can be targeted from both the pier and the surf, with the larger models tending to come off the piers. Finbait is a good starting point, herring, smelt, perch and even croakers are good options, especially when fished alive. Sardines however are hard to beat when it comes to leopard bait. They have been known to take ghost shrimp, sand crabs, worms and even squid as well. When they are around in numbers they are ravenous!
These smallish sharks are not drag burning fish, but they are indeed strong fighters capable of quite the scrap on light tackle. 20-30lb line is plenty to catch these attractive sharks, and with that class of tackle they make a few runs against the drag.
From the surf rigs like the Loop Rig, Pulley Rig, or even the basic Carolina/Fishfinder rig are all good options. Leopard sharks do indeed have teeth, but they are small and not much threat to terminal tackle, but wire is still recommended as it will cost the angler nothing and provides insurance against lost fish. From the pier slide baiting is a fantastic option and using weighted non-return sliders is a good idea to get the bait down as fast as possible. A favorite bait from the pier is a live herring on a light fluorocarbon leader (60-80lb). Leopards seem to prefer baits on the smaller side, palm sized or slightly smaller is plenty to entice a bite.
Leopard Sharks are common all along the Southern California coast, but Orange County, San Diego County and LA County tend to hold more fish than other places. Look for areas of sand beaches, preferably adjacent to jetties or submerged structure as these areas provide the soft substrate these little dogfish like as well as bait holding areas. Leopards are kelp loving sharks, and are often found in areas with nearby kelp beds.
Leopard Sharks seem to run about twice a year, coinciding with their spawning groups. Summer and Winter both produce fish, with the winter group tending to be a little larger size fish. Fish around the grunion runs and on big tide swings and be prepared. Usually when one is found several others are fast behind!
Thanks for reading! For more information and rigs for targeting these fish please check out our own website at TerraFirmaTackle.com!
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