Smoothhounds: Family Triakididae
Species: Triakis semifasciata from the Greek word tria (meaning the number three, like a triad) and Latin cis (meaning on the side), and the Latin fasciata (bundled) referring to the stripes.
Alternate Names: Cat shark.
Identification: Dark gray body with black bars and spots on body; first dorsal fin in advance of pelvic fins; base of second dorsal in advance of base of anal fin.
Leopard shark caught by Minnow Magnet (Justin Morris)
Size: Length to 7 feet and nearly 70 pounds; most caught on piers are under four feet long.
Range: From Mazatlan, Mexico, to Oregon.
Habitat: Most leopards are caught in bays but a number are also caught in sandy shore areas. Large schools mixed with smoothhound sharks are common in shallow water.
Leopard shark caught at Malibu
Piers: Caught throughout California but it is a major pier species only in the San Francisco Bay. Best bets – Fort Baker Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Angel Island Pier, San Mateo Bridge Pier, Port View Park Pier, and all piers along the San Francisco waterfront. Quite a few of these sharks are also taken off of Humboldt Bay piers.
Bait and Tackle: Will take almost any bait but prefers squid, an oily fish like mackerel or anchovy, or live baits such as ghost shrimp or small fish. If specifically fishing for leopard sharks, use medium tackle, a size 2 to 4/0 hook, and heavy monofilament line – together with a net to bring the fish up onto the pier. Late summer and fall finds best fishing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Leopard shark caught by CayucosJack (Aaron Coons) at the Morro Bay North T-Pier
Food Value: An excellent, mild flavored flesh which can be fried, broiled or baked. Like all sharks, it should be bled and cleaned as soon as possible. It should also be kept cool and an overnight bath in the refrigerator (with just a couple of squirts of lemon juice) helps assure the good flavor.
Comments: This is the favorite sharks for most pier fishermen; it is attractive, reaches a good size, puts up a good fight, and is good eating.