Common Thresher Shark

Species: Alopias vulpinus; from the Greek word alopos and Latin word vulpes, (both meaning fox).

Alternate Names: Thresher, blue thresher, longtail shark, swiveltail, fox shark, sea fox.

Identification: Easily identified by the long tail which is as long as the body. The only other similar shark in California water is the rare, deep-water, big-eye thresher. Their coloring is brown to gray to black on the back shading to white below.

Size: To 18 feet and possibly 25 feet. Most caught off piers are under 6 feet in length.

Range: Worldwide; in the eastern Pacific from Chile to Goose Bay, British Columbia. Most threshers caught in California are taken south of Point Conception.

Habitat: Most common in deeper offshore water but young threshers venture into shallower water, particularly at night. A number are caught by southern California pier fishermen every year.

Piers: Most common on oceanfront piers south of Los Angeles. Best bets: Ocean Beach Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier and Santa Monica Pier.

Bait and Tackle: Almost always landed by anglers specifically fishing for shark. Tackle should be heavy and include a net or treble gaff to bring the fish onto the pier. Line should be at least 40 pound test, a wire leader is preferred and hooks can be 4/0 or larger. The best bait is a whole small fish, something oily like a Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel or Pacific sardine. A whole squid

Food Value: An excellent, mild flavored flesh! Threshers can be prepared many ways but one of the best is to simply cut the meat into steaks and broil them on a grill. The meat does need to be cleaned properly and kept cool before cooking.

Comments: The high demand for thresher steaks, accompanying high prices, and over-fishing, have led to a dramatic drop in the thresher population in the last twenty years. Many people feel there should be either a ban or severe limits imposed on the take of threshers for a few years.