Carpet Shark – Cephaloscyllium isabella – also Cat or Swell Shark

Carpet Shark - Cephaloscyllium isabella Carpet sharks are occasionally caught by surfcasters fishing from both sandy and stony beaches. Though…

Carpet Shark – Cephaloscyllium isabella

A brace of carpet shark caught by Allan Burgess from the beach behind the railway station at Kaikoura. Though quite eatable they were returned to the water.

Carpet sharks are occasionally caught by surfcasters fishing from both sandy and stony beaches. Though more commonly found in inshore coastal waters around the South Island many surfcasters might never see one. They are usually caught in shallow water but have been taken on baited lines fished as deep as 250 meters. The New Zealand carpet shark is also found in southern Australia.

This rather brightly coloured carpet shark was caught in Akaroa Harbour.

Its appearance is somewhat grotesque and generally off-putting to most surfcasters who are usually more inclined to let them go than take one home for dinner. They have a habit of inflating themselves with water when first caught probably as a defence to make themselves appear larger to predators. Inflating themselves with water means that this species is sometimes called a swell shark.

The skin of a carpet shark feels like coarse sandpaper. It is brown and blotchy with the colour fading and becoming more uniform after death.

In its natural environment, the carpet shark is often found resting on the seabed where it’s mottled skin colour blends in perfectly with shells, rocks, and weed to the extent that it is hard to spot unless it moves. The carpet shark typically lives half buried in sand or mud, or shell bottoms, often close to rocks. It is generally quite placid and doesn’t swim about constantly like most other sharks.

Carpet sharks have quite large mouths at the end of their bodies whereas most sharks have their mouths underneath. This implies the carpet shark sucks in its prey rather than biting it. They have numerous small teeth.

According to David H. Graham, the carpet shark lives mostly on five different species of bottom-living crabs and bottom living whalefeed (shrimp). Only cockabullies were found in their stomachs and no pelagic fishes. Again suggesting they are probably ambush predators that lie in wait for their prey on the sea floor.

Most carpet sharks caught by anglers measure around 1 m. According to David H. Graham in a Treasury of New Zealand Fishes, the largest one he had seen measured 8 feet in length.

I have eaten carpet shark many years ago. The flesh being much like that of any other shark. Most anglers, however, release any carpet sharks they catch back into the sea.

The eyes of the species are long slits that appear much like those of a cat, hence cat shark is also used for this species.

Carpet skark caught off Banks Peninsula, Canterbury.
Note the blotchy appearance of this carpet shark. The skin is very rough but the shark is harmless. They often pump up their bodies with water when hooked presumably as a defence against larger predators.

This post was last modified on 15/06/2017 7:16 pm

Share
Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

Twizel Canals – Should they be catch and release only?

by Allan Burgess One of the controversies that surround fishing in the Twizel Canals relates to the percentage of trout…

25/09/2020

Hi-Viz Surfcasting Rod Holders Using Reflector Tape

How to make hi-viz rod holders by Allan Burgess Here is an inexpensive way to make your surfcasting rod holders…

25/09/2020

Lake Benmore Trout Fishing – A Week In Paradise By Ken Twyman

Lake Benmore Brass Monkey Trout Fishing Trip By Ken Twyman Update now includes Lake Benmore - Alf Palmer Memorial Fishing…

22/09/2020

Makarora and Wilkin Rivers Lake Wanaka Otago

By Monty Wright Being on holiday Colleen and I woke at a respectable hour. We had stayed overnight at Makarora…

18/09/2020

Harling Lake Dunstan – Best Fly Colours, Line Setups and Harling Tips

by Peter Lemin - Harling Lake Dunstan Part 1 The main angling methods in Lake Dunstan have been trolling as…

18/09/2020

Shadow-Box Trout Flies – How to make your own shadow-box project

by Allan Burgess Making a shadow-box to display your trout flies by hanging them on the wall is a great…

18/09/2020

All Rights Reserved © fishingmag.co.nz 1999 - 2020

Read More