Horn Shark

Species: Heterodontus francisci; from the Greek hetero (different) and odont (tooth) and the Latin francisci referring to San Francisco.

Alternate Names: Bullhead shark, hornback shark.

Identification: Horn sharks are spotted sharks with an anal fin and a strong spine at the front of each dorsal fin. Their coloring is tan to dark brown or grayish above, pale yellowish below.

Size: Reported to 48 inches, but the largest verified was just over 38 inches long and 22 pounds. Most hornies caught from piers are under 30 inches in length.

Range: Found from the Gulf of California to Monterey Bay.

Habitat: Prefers rocky areas although also found near sandy areas that contain kelp. They are nocturnal, bottom-feeding foragers who prefer to spend their daylight hours resting on the bottom or in caves and crevices. At night they head out in their search for food -- primarily squids, urchins, crustaceans, anemones and mollusks -- but rarely are they found more than six feet from the bottom.

Piers: Most are caught at southern California piers but a few are caught as far north as the pier at Cayucos. Generally found near piers that are close to reefs or kelp. Best bets: Ocean Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Green Pleasure Pier at Avalon, Santa Monica Pier, Gaviota Pier and Goleta Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Crabs, shrimp, squid and small fish are prime baits but hornies appear to take almost any natural bait. Most horn sharks taken by pier anglers are fairly small fish so light-to-medium tackle equipped with size 2 to 2/0 hooks will suffice.

Food Value: Reported to be quite tasty, similar to most other sharks.

Comments: An interesting little shark. Small horn sharks are frequently sold in aquarium shops where they command top prices. They are generally harmless but an anglers should be careful of the dorsal spines and be aware that agitated fish may try to bite careless handlers.