When Jeff Fangman cast out his reel from the shore last month, he never imagined he would hook one of nature’s most fierce and illusive predators. He nabbed a juvenile great white shark less than a hundred yards offshore.
“The great white — it was just unbelievable! Being able to touch such a magnificent creature is pretty special,” said Fangman. “When I saw it was a great white, it was just a shock, but at the same time I knew I had to get it back in the water.”
Fangman freed the endangered and protected great white into the ocean.
“I have never heard of a great white here being caught on a line,” said Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps.
Hillsgarth said there are fewer great whites in the ocean and their numbers continue to decline.
“We don’t fully understand why,” she said.
But scientists do know why there have been a higher number of sightings in recent months. They are juveniles – under 13 feet and typically not a threat to humans, according to Hillsgarth.
“They’re obviously scary to see, but they are after smaller prey. They are not big enough yet to go after the marine mammals,” Hillsgarth said.
Seal pups are migrating north near the coast and fattening up on fish. If the food source is closer to shore – so are sharks.
“The weather, the temperature of water, currents and the distribution of the fish are changing, so I think all those things are almost certainly making us see a lot more (great white sharks),” Hillsgarth said.
For Fangman, though, it’s a shark’s tale he will not soon forget.
“The whole experience it has been amazing. Great day! Great water! With family and I caught a shark – a big shark – a great white at that!” he said.