Species: Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758); from the Greek carcharodon (rough and tooth), and carcharias (the ancient Greek name for the species).
Alternate Names: It has many names throughout the world. Most common are great white and man-eater. Others include great white death, white pointer, Mango-ururoa (New Zealand), and Grand requin blanc (France). Called Tiburón blanco in Mexico.
Identification: Large, heavy body with the 1st dorsal fin over rear of of pectoral fin; 2nd dorsal fin begins in front of anal fin. Dark metallic-gray, slate-blue, brownish or blackish above, lighter on side, white below. Sometimes has a black spot at the base of the pectoral fin or on the underside of the pectoral fin near the tip. The teeth are very large, triangular, with serrated, saw-tooth edges.
Size: Although reported to 36 feet, and over 4,000 pounds in weight, most are under 21 feet in length. In California reported to nearly 20 feet in length.
Range: From Gulf of California to Gulf of Alaska.
Habitat: Inshore and offshore areas, especially near seal or sea lion rookeries.
Piers: White sharks have been taken at several piers including those at Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Goleta. Many other piers have reported sightings of great whites—Oceanside, Balboa, Ventura, Gaviota, Avila, and Cayucos. A great white was reported hooked and lost at the Pacifica Pier in1991. Almost all were young pups under six feet in length although the one that decided to visit Pacifica grabbed a hooked, ten pound or so salmon and was estimated at 12 feet in length and 700 pounds. The carcass of a small, four-foot-long baby white floated by the Point Arena Pier in March of 1997 until grabbed by a couple of the local youth.
Shoreline: Seen near shore far too often but rarely hooked by anglers.
Boats: Rarely seen although I did see one once while fishing from a boat out of Capitola.
Bait and Tackle: None, illegal to take.
Food Value: None, illegal to take.
Comments: Among the swimmers killed by great whites in California was one who decided to swim with the sea lions alongside the Avila Pier. It was a bad idea. Great Whites are currently illegal to keep in California.
“Jaws” was undoubtedly one of the greatest movies about sharks and this quote from Quint in the movie is memorable —“Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya, right into your eyes. Y’know, the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes after ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’ until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white, and then – aww, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red, and in spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and rip ya to pieces…”