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Species Profile: Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium Ventriosum)

Author: Terra Firma Tackle

The Swell Shark 

Species Info:

                The Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) is one catshark found in California. These unusal little sharks can be found from Northern California to Baja and are numerous throughout their range. They feed on or near the bottom and unlike requiem sharks, these sharks lay eggs. The eggs are shaped like a purse (hence the nickname: mermaids purse) and contain a single developing embryo. These fish are easily identifiable by flattened body, marbled patterning, black teeth and unusual defense mechanism of puffing up when caught or disturbed. These are one of the smallest sharks found in California, only reaching about 3 feet in length, and for the most part they remain close to the bottom and are slow moving.


                Catshark, Pacman Shark, Kirby, A Snag

Swell Shark


                Swell sharks can be caught from both the pier and the surf, but the majority of these small sharks will be caught incidentally on piers near rocky bottom and deep water. This is one species of shark that responds well to invertebrate baits such as shrimp, squid, or crab.  Sardines however are hard to beat when it comes to bottom bait and these sharks will not turn down a finbait offering if they are in the mood. These fish share much of their range with Horn Sharks, and for the most part these fish occur together in nature

                These slow, lazy sharks are not fighters at all, but they often wedge themselves in rocks or kelp and make it difficult to pull them out. 10 to 20lb line is plenty to catch these miniature bottom dwellers, but as mentioned before, many will be caught on baits intended for larger game.

Swell Shark

                From the surf rigs like the Loop Rig, Pulley Rig, or even the basic Carolina/Fishfinder rig are all good options. On the pier most of these fish will be caught on slid baits intended for other species, no need to target them directly, if they are in the area they will find the bait. There is no need for wire with swell sharks, but in the event that another shark takes the bait be prepared for a cut off. These fish can and do eat very large baits intended for other species and don’t see to by shy when it comes to heavy or stiff terminal gear. It is nothing short of amazing the size of baits these fish will swallow down given enough time.

Night Fishing Swell Shark


                Swell Sharks are common all along the Southern California coast, and anywhere with a rocky bottom or kelp line can hold these odd sharks. South Orange County and SD County both hold enormous amounts of these fish, sometimes bordering on plague proportions.



                Swell Sharks bite all year, unfortunately. No luck escaping their bait stealing behavior there. They do seem to be more active in the dark hours, so perhaps if one wishes to avoid them sticking to daylight may do the trick.

Thanks for reading! For more information and rigs for targeting these fish please check out our own website at!


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