White Shark – Carcharodon carcharias – Fishing Methods

A great white shark hunting a seal. Image by MLbay from Pixabay.
A great white shark hunting a seal. Image by MLbay from Pixabay.

Great White Sharks by Allan Burgess

Also known as White Shark, White Death, Man Eater, or White Pointer (in South Africa), this is the most fearsome of all sharks

Important Note. The Great White Shark has been fully protected in New Zealand waters since April 2007.

Table of Contents

The species is fully protected under The Wildlife Act meaning it is now illegal to hunt, kill or harm a white pointer shark within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – 200 nautical mile limit around NZ). It is also illegal in New Zealand to possess or trade in any part of a white pointer shark.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and has an obligation to prohibit the taking of white pointer sharks.

White sharks are found mostly in temperate seas ranging from 10 to 30deg C. Distribution is worldwide throughout temperate, tropical and subtropical waters. Most likely their travels are linked to the seasonal availability of prey species. In New Zealand, hot spots for great white sharks include Manukau and Kaipara Harbours, and in southern waters around Fiordland, Foveaux Strait, Otago Peninsula and the Chatham Islands.

The great white is a solid bodied, streamlined, powerful and menacing looking shark. It has a broad, well defined, wide caudal keel where the body joins the tail. Both the upper and lower lobes of the tail are roughly symmetrical. The upper lope is slightly longer and notched near the top. The body colour is either dark or light grey on the upper body and a dirty white colour on the lower surfaces. On some specimens, the upper body is more brownish. It has large black eyes which lack a nictitating membrane. The pectoral fins are black tipped and there is a black spot on the body just above them.

Great white shark caught in Foveaux Strait, near Stewart Island, back in the 1990s. Photo Allan Burgess.
Great white shark caught in Foveaux Strait, near Stewart Island, back in the 1990s. Photo Allan Burgess.

It reaches sexual maturity at a length of 11 to 14 feet (3.3 – 4.4m). It is ovoviviparous (its young are born fully developed and swimming). The maximum reliably recorded length for a white shark is 6.1m although measurements taken from bites in whale carcases off South Africa suggest that their maximum length may reach 7.5m. A great white measuring in excess of 7m could weigh over 4500kg.

In World Record Marine Fishes published by the International Game Fish Association there is an entry which records the following as having been found in the stomachs of captured great white sharks: whole sheep, a bulldog, a cuckoo clock, glass, bottles, tin cans, and parts of porpoises, whales, horses and humans.

Fishing Methods: Chumming considerably increases the chances of attracting a great white to your baited hook. The best baits are oily fish like tuna and mackerel. They will also hit trolled lures.

One of New Zealand’s best places to target white sharks is in the vicinity of southern fur seal colonies during the late summer and early autumn months.

According to Dick Marquand, a founding member of the now disbanded Fiordland Game Fishing Club, heavy tackle should be used, in either 37kg, or 60kg line classes. Hooks should be offset kirbed forged steel in size 16/0 or larger.

Very heavy steel traces are required, made of heavy aircraft cable with possibly a short length of chain near the hook, wrapped in insulation tape. Top quality steel flying gaffs and tail ropes are required.

You obviously need to be fishing from a large boat with strong bollards for attaching gaff ropes and tail ropes. A crew experienced in handling large powerful fish is a necessity.

Large oily baits fished in a berley trail, under a balloon, and close to a seal colony, will give the angler the best chance of hooking a white shark.

It is essential that the angler allow the big shark plenty of time to swallow the bait. If the shark is close to the surface it should be struck hard repeatedly with a tight line to set the hook. Expect strong runs and be prepared for the shark to jump almost clear of the water.

In the later stages as the shark tires, it will almost certainly roll on the leader. Be patient. Under no circumstances should an attempt be made to gaff the great white while it is still “green.”

The New Zealand All-Tackle Record for White Sharks is 263.4kg taken by Dave Akast in Manukau Harbour on 21 February 1993.

Great-White-Shark-Carcharodon-carcharias - line art

The Reputation of Great White Sharks

Large white sharks are apex predators at the very top of the food chain. The great white shark is probably the most dangerous of all sharks as far as size, aggression, ability, strength and willingness to attack humans is concerned. There have been many reported and verified attacks on swimmers and surfers around the world by white sharks. Some of these attacks have proven fatal. According to the Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of New Zealand, there have been 40 attacks since 1900 made on humans that could be reliably attributed to the great white, although only about 12 of these were fatal. Most of these attacks took place in southern Australia, off the coast of California, and southern New Zealand. The great white shark is undeniably dangerous but perhaps its reputation as a man-eater is somewhat overstated.

In 1916 a very strange series of incidents occurred in Matawan Creek, New Jersey, in the United States of America where people were attacked and two were killed. The frightening feature being that three attacks happened inland 11 miles from the open ocean. An 8’6” white shark was caught two days later in Raritan Bay that was found to contain 15 pounds of human flesh together with a boy’s shin bone in its stomach.

Great white sharks come in close to shore to feed on marine mammals off the coast of California, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Their natural diet consists of fish, squid, sea turtles, seals, sea lions, seagulls, dolphins, porpoises, whales, tuna, and other sharks. They are opportunistic feeders and will hunt or scavenge as circumstances permit.

Though the great white shark has a fearsome reputation it is relatively uncommon compared with other shark species. Little is known about its life history

The snout is conical and pointed. In South Africa in particular, the great white is known as a white pointer shark.

The teeth are designed for cutting and holding flesh. They are triangular in shape, have serrated edges and are very sharp.

The great white shark is a member of the Lamnidae or mackerel shark family along with the porbeagle and the mako. This means that their body temperature may be as much as 10 degrees warmer than the surrounding seawater. For this reason, the great white is capable of considerable bursts of speed when chasing prey animals like seals. This shark has a surprising acrobatic ability and even large specimens are known to jump clear of the water when chasing their prey.

Orca Hunting Great White Sharks – Video!

Orca or Killer Whales have been filmed hunting and killing even the biggest great white sharks. Hard to believe but true. Apparently, the orca has learnt to hunt great whites by bumping into them and then flipping them on their backs holding them upside down by the shark’s pectoral fin. After 15 minutes or so the shark suffocates. It is then eaten by the pod of whales. Interestingly other great white sharks in the area retreat when they realise what has happened. – by Allan Burgess

New Zealand Department of Conservation information on the white shark.

Conservation and management of New Zealand sharks. pdf (includes information on New Zealand’s protected shark species. Over 113 species of sharks have been reported in New Zealand waters. Sharks are now known to be an important part of marine ecosystems and New Zealand’s National Plan of Action-Sharks (available at www.mpi.govt.nz) recognises this. 

This great white shark, recorded as 18 feet (5.5 metres) long, was caught at Port Chalmers about 1900.

The White Shark – Leviathan of the Deep by Dick Marquand

As youngsters, we have all had heroes that we worshipped be it the Phantom, Clark Kent or Buck Rogers. My idol was Alf Dean, a South Australian fruit grower who, during the 1950s and 1960s, astounded the world by successfully concentrating his angling efforts on the great white shark or white pointer, Carcharodon carcharias. My introduction to Dean came about through the early Penn Reels catalogues, as this American fishing tackle manufacturer was making the most of his series of amazing captures.

During his career, Dean landed over 100 white sharks, all being taken in South Australian waters between Kangaroo Island and the Bight. Of these, six weighed over the magical ton (ref No. 1). His largest weighed a massive 1208.38 kg (2664 lb), taken on 60 kg IGFA line class tackle on 24 April 1959 after a fight that lasted only one and a quarter hours. This shark immortalised Alf Dean in the IGFA record books, claiming both the All-Tackle IGFA World Record and the 60kg line class IGFA World Record for this species. The existing World Record for the 37 kg IGFA line class is also held by Dean with a 1063.23 kg (2344 lb) whitey taken at Streaky Bay on 6 November 1960 (ref. No. 2).

Anglers have taken two white sharks that have exceeded Dean’s largest, but both were disqualified by the IGFA. On 26 April 1976, Clive Green landed a whitey from South Australian waters that weighed in at 1536.70 kg (3388 lb), however, whale meat had been used as bait. In the years between Dean’s and Green’s captures, the IGFA had introduced an angling rule prohibiting the use of whale meat as bait or chum.

The second was a massive 1566 kg (3452 lb) whitey taken in August 1986 by Donald Bradstock and Frank Mundus, off the east coast of the United States from the famous game boat Cricket II. I am unsure as to the reason why IGFA disqualified this capture, but their rules are strict and designed to be fair to all (ref. No.3).

Cricket II skipper Frank Mundus is another of the world’s most experienced white shark anglers. His exploits as a Montauk charter boat skipper and angler are described in a book he coauthored titled Sportfishing for Sharks. Anglers keen to tackle a whitey would be well advised to consider the sound advice that this book offers. (ref N o. 4).

Now let’s take a look at Carcharodon carcharias. Although white sharks are distributed throughout the oceans of the world, they appear to prefer temperate waters, such as is found off the coastline of New York, South Africa, South Australia and New Zealand. An exception to this is Cape Moreton, Queensland where the dynamic team of Bob and Dolly Dyer specialised in giving this species a hard time. Between them, they amassed eight IGFA World Records that have stood the test of time (ref. No. 2).

In Peter Goadby’s Big Fish and Blue Water, he claims that the species can weigh up to 4500 kg (10,000 lb) (ref. No. 5). l am sure that this is no exaggeration as there are far bigger whiteys out there that have ever been landed. In the mid-1940s, a 6.5-metre white shark taken off Cuba weighed 3312.17 kg(7302 lb). Another harpooned off Montauk, New York in 1964 measured 5.4 metres and weighed 2040 kg (4500 lb) (ref No. 6).

In 1978, a white shark caught by fishermen off the Azores apparently measured out at 9 metres. Such a shark would have to reach Goadby’ s magical 4540 kg (10,000 lb). There are also unreliable reports of an 11.3-metre white shark that was stranded in a weir in Canada around the 1930s, and an 11.13-metre specimen captured off Port Fairey, Victoria in 1852. The jaws of the latter are in the British Museum in London and when examined by researchers, it was concluded that the shark would have only measured out at about 5.4 metres (ref. No. 3).

The white shark is identified by its massive but streamlined shape, large triangular teeth, the presence of a caudal keel, coal black eyes and a dark spot above the pectoral fins. The shark displays a large triangular dorsal fin and the upper lobe of the tail is slightly longer than the lower lobe. Colouration can range from a brown, black, blue or slate grey above and off-white underside.

Being one of the Lamnidae or mackerel shark family (which also includes the makos and porbeagle sharks), the white shark is warm-blooded, that is the body temperature is several degrees warmer than the surrounding water (ref No. 3).

Little is known about the reproduction of white sharks. Females are not sexually mature until they are at least 4 metres in length. They are ovoviviparous, that is the young develop inside the body of the parent female and have a yolk sac attached, instead of being attached to the females by an umbilical cord and placenta.

Embryo white sharks have been recorded measuring 60cm in length, but it is believed that they reach around 120cm before birth. The smallest free-swimming whitey measured 130cm in length and weighed 16 kg (36 lb) (ref. No. 7).

To be fortunate enough to see a white shark graciously swimming up a chum trail behind your boat is a truly wondrous sight. However, not so wondrous to be in the water with one. That is unless you are within the security of a “shark cage”. Just think about it; who is in the cage? The fact is that white sharks are proven man-eaters and they have earned themselves a rather nasty reputation for this activity.

The United States Navy, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute, has collected information on around 2000 instances of shark attacks on man. This information is known as the International Shark Attack File. It is interesting to note that even in the deep south, we have not escaped the attention of the U.S. Navy. (ref. No. 8).

The 1960s were dark days for swimmers, surfers, and underwater spearfisherman who invaded the domain of the white shark off the Otago coast. Between 1964 and 1968, four attacks from what was believed to be white sharks claimed three lives.

In February 1964, a 19-year-old surfer, Leslie Jordan lost his right leg of St Clair Beach in Dunedin. Mr Jordan was dead on arrival at the Dunedin Hospital. (ISAF No. 1266)

On 9 March 1967, 21-year-old William Black was taken by a shark while he as involved in a life-saving club competition at St Kilda Beach in Dunedin. His body was never recovered. (ISAF No. 1449).

The third fatality occurred on 15 September 1968 near the entrance to the Otago Harbour. Spearfisherman Graham Hitt, aged 24 had both legs badly mutilated and died not long after his companions got him to shore. (ISAF No. 1550).

Christmas Day 1968 was to be a lucky day for 17-year-old Garry Barton. A white shark knocked him from his surfboard about 50 metres from St Clair Beach. The shark attacked the board but did not continue its attack on Barton (ISAF No. 1583).

Great white shark. The author Dick Marquand fighting a white shark near the mouth of Milford Sound. Photo: Max Wilson.
The author Dick Marquand fighting a white shark near the mouth of Milford Sound. Photo: Max Wilson.

Great White Shark is an Opportunistic Feeder

White sharks could best be described as opportunistic feeders. Professor J.L.B. Smith, in his excellent book The Fishes of Southern Africa, describes the stomach contents of a 5.5-metre whitey taken off the South African coast. “Dragged” aboard, it was cut open and found to have in its stomach the foot of a native, half a small goat, two pumpkins, a wicker covered scent bottle, two large fishes quite fresh, a small shark and unidentifiable oddments.” (ref No. 9).

In Big Game Fishes and Sharks of New Zealand by Arthur W. Parrott: “A 928 lb specimen caught off Whangaroa was found to contain in its stomach a four-foot mako, the backbone of another, a 40 lb groper, a gannet, a 25 lb lump of whale blubber and seven strands of whalebone all in one piece.” (ref. No. 10).

On a more local level, a few years ago I spoke to a Stewart Island commercial fisherman, who told me of a whitey that had accidentally tangled itself in his bait net. In its stomach was an entire southern fur seal cow that smelt so bad, even the hardened fisherman had to swallow hard.

Some very big white sharks have also been reported from the South Island of New Zealand, particularly during the days of the whaling stations at Tory Channel in the Marlborough Sounds.
Don Grady makes mention of some awesome sharks in his book “The Perano Whalers of Cook Strait 1911 – 1964.” (ref.No. 11).

Some of the details are as follows: Early this century, a deformed white shark was killed with an explosive harpoon while it was feeding off a dead whale. It measured 5.63 metres in length and weighed around 2000 kg (4400 lb). In its stomach were a complete sea leopard and several hunks of whale blubber, the biggest of which was too heavy for a man to lift. Its teeth were 7cm long and when the jaws were cut from the shark and opened, two men could stand up inside them, side by side. It is reported that had it not been for the deformity, the shark could have been 9 metres long!

The Brig is an exposed rock near the entrance to Milford Sound, where white sharks have been seen and captured by commercial fishermen.
The Brig is an exposed rock near the entrance to Milford Sound, where white sharks have been seen and captured by commercial fishermen.

Two Killed

Two others were killed in June 1956, the largest of which was 4.5 metres long, had a girth of 2.7 metres and a weight of 1500 kg (3000 lb). Another 5.8-metre whitey was killed in Tory Channel at the Fishing Bay whaling station on 1 June 1954.

Quite possibly the largest white shark ever taken in New Zealand waters was gelignited at the Fishing Bay whaling station on 17 May 1950. The shark measured out at 6.8 metres, so one can only imagine what it would have weighed.

The Tory Channel whaling operations attracted the attention of some very large whiteys, sharks that would have dwarfed Dean’s South Australian captures.

There are records of white sharks from the Far North to the Campbell Islands, however, they appear to be more common in some areas than others, notably the Otago Peninsula, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland and the Chatham Islands. “More common” is probably the wrong term to use as, in all honesty, I believe the white shark to be a relatively rare species.

Despite nearly ten years of experience in Fiordland targeting sharks with operations that involved the extensive use of chum in hot locations and hot areas, I had only two positive encounters and one probably encounter with this species.

My first encounter occurred in March 1982 while chumming a southern bluefin tuna just inside the mouth of Milford Sound. I was using a 37 kg outfit, baited with half a fresh albacore tuna set at about 100 fathoms and in line with the sinking pieces of chum. When the bait was eventually taken, I struck too soon and wound in the bait that showed some awesome tooth marks. I rebaited with a large piece of bluefin and it went back over the side.

About half an hour later the reel spool started slowly turning the ratchet and clicking away, so after displaying a lot of patience I struck and was rewarded with a solid hook-up. The next five hours were the most gruelling I have ever experienced. The fight concluded in darkness when the shark which was close to the boat, rolled on the leader breaking the dacron line. Had I landed that whitey, it would have been the heaviest fish ever landed on rod and reel in New Zealand waters?

The next encounter was on 25 April 1982, about 10 kilometres from the mouth of George Sound. A dead and very rotten southern fur seal was being “chummed” by a group of mollymawks who were content with their easily won meal. Another visitor who also had his heart set on that putrid mass was a slender male white shark over three metres in length. He circled close to the boat, watching us with cold black eyes, then swam over to the seal, opened a cavernous mouth full of triangular ivories, clamped the seal in his jaws and disappeared into the deep blue water below us.

The third encounter happened at the Brig, an exposed wave-swept rock lying about five kilometres north of the mouth of Milford Sound. One of my crew was fighting a groper of about 24 kg (50 lb) when it was taken complete with a short steel trace, just below our boat.

Commercial fishermen had reported a whitey hanging around the Brig and the adjoining reef some months earlier, so I am sure that on this occasion, we crossed paths.

John Barber, skipper of the commercial boat “Alias” told me of a whitey he had captured in a bait net set off the Transit Beach, just south of Milford Sound. It was over 5 metres long and John estimated its weight to be around 1500 kg (3300 lb).

He cut the head off the shark in order to save the jaws and yet, despite the severed head, when he touched one of the eyes, the fearsome jaws closed with a crash. John told me that he had to sit down for a while and contemplate the meaning of life.

If I haven’t put you off and you’re still keen to tangle with one of these leviathans, please consider the following advice carefully.

A "hot spot" for whitey fishing is close to a southern seal colony where they are a sort after meal for the white shark.
A “hot spot” for whitey fishing is close to a southern seal colony where they are hunted by the white shark.


Samara is a 10-metre Vindex, double diagonally planked with kauri and weighing around five tons. When I was fishing from her for whiteys, I must admit that I felt very exposed and somewhat under-gunned.

My advice is, do not fish for white sharks from small boats. They are one species of shark (along with the mako) known to attack a boat once free of the angler’s line. It is essential that the boat should have strong bollards on which to attach flying gaffs, tail ropes, and so on. The real danger to your boat, life and limb occurs when you put the gaff in. It is vitally important that the shark is completely played out before the cold steel goes in.

Goadby recommends that you initially gaff the shark in the shoulder and put the second one further back, which will give you some control of the situation. Other experienced anglers put the gaff into any opening, be it the anus, gills or mouth. My problem with gaffing in the gills or mouth is that the shark’s propelling mechanism is still in the water, and the last object you want sharing the boat with you is a ton of angry, twisting and writing white shark.

If the shark is played out, make sure that you secure your catch with a tail rope and keep the boat going slowly ahead. A choker chain may work well on makos, but I have not heard of one being used on a whitey.

In Cook Strait on 12 June 1960, a 4.6-metre white shark was harpooned by a whale chaser. The shark charged the boat embedding most of its front teeth in the wooden keel (ref. No. 11). Perhaps my advice to you should be not to fish for whiteys from anything smaller than a whale chaser! Above all, be very careful when tackling this species, your life could very well depend on this advice.


The angler must be physically fit because the fight will almost certainly require stamina. The crew must work as a team with each person knowing exactly what is expected of him or her.


You could come across a whitey anywhere off the South Island coastline, however, some areas hold more promise than others. Hot locations are the Otago Peninsula, Chatham Islands, Foveaux Strait and Fiordland, and hot spots are just offshore from southern fur seas colonies, especially during the late summer and autumn months.

Consultation with the local fishing community could also provide some worthwhile information. These chaps are a mine of information and news of large sharks spreads fast.


Unless you are a very experienced angler, use heavy gear in the 37 g or 60 g IGFA line classes. A solid fighting chair with a built-in footrest is an essential piece of equipment for these classes of gear. I am not experienced with “stand up” fishing, but I see no reason why this technique shouldn’t work on white sharks provided the gear is of a heavy class (such as 37 kg) and the sea is calm.

The only game fishing reels that I would consider using on these heavyweights are the Penn Senator Series in either 12/O, 14/0 or 16/0, the Penn International Series in either 80 or 130, and the biggest of the Fin Nors. These reels are time-proven and are able to take the rough punishment of shark fishing.

Many years ago, I recall spending an evening in the Haast Pub discussing the attributes of white sharks with an experienced Chatham Islands commercial fisherman. He had the proof in his wallet, a 3-centimetre white triangular tooth from a 3-metre white shark. What really impressed me was when he ran the tooth down the surface of his arm causing cut hair to flick away as if it was shaved by a sharp razor blade. These same teeth make short work of light steel traces and are comparable with a pair of side cutters.

My white shark traces are made from heavy aircraft cable of at least 1000 kg (2200 lb) breaking strength and wrapped in insulation tape. Mt Cook Airlines kindly gave me the cable and even pressure-crimped swivels on one end and game hooks on the other. Leaders should be the maximum length allowed by the IGFA Equipment Rules.

The hooks that I use are forged game hooks by Mustad, with either a kirbed or reversed shank in size 16/0 or larger. Needless to say, the point must be honed razor-sharp.

You will also need top-quality fly gaffs, tail ropes and perhaps a choker chain. It goes without saying that the angler will need a top quality harness and the “wireman” leather gloves.

The teeth of a white shark are razor sharp and can cut through light steel traces with ease.
The teeth of a white shark are razor-sharp and can cut through light steel traces with ease.

White Shark Fishing Methods

If you decide to fish inshore close to a seal colony, this is best done at anchor, so have a buoy attached to your anchor line just in case you have to cast off in a hurry.

The use of chum or berley will increase your chances of crossing paths with whitey considerably. For a day’s chumming, you can expect to go through about 100 kg (220 lb) of chum, particularly if you are drift fishing offshore. I would expect to only go through half that amount if close to a seal colony.

Another tip is to soak your chum in tuna oil so as to spread a good slick on the surface and a good scent trail down below.

Some fish make excellent chum, especially oily species such as mackerel, tuna and mullet. Any fish is better than nothing, however, please don’t use your shark fishing as an excuse to deplete a reef of bottom dwellers. If need be, buy frozen lobster bait such as mackerel, but stay away from frozen elephant fish scraps. My experiences with this member of the shark family are that the ammonia-tainted fish can act as a shark repellent.

On a shark fishing trip with Peter Goadby and the late Sir William Stevenson off the Fiordland coast back in 1979, both these experienced white shark anglers impressed on me the importance of commencing chumming early in the morning and ceasing at mid-afternoon. “The last thing that you want to be doing is dealing with a white shark beside your boat in darkness,” Sir William said.

After my five-hour ordeal at the mouth of Milford Sound, l appreciate that what he said is good advice.

Large Baits

Large baits, either dead or alive will work well, especially if the whitey has had a good “whiff” of your chum trail. A balloon will act as a depth regulator for your bait, an important point to remember if fishing in shallow water. If your deep drifting bait is taken, be patient and allow the shark plenty of time and line without tension. When you decide to set the hook, take the boat forward under power and when the line comes uptight, strike hard between six and a dozen times.

Rolling on the Leader

Rolling on the leader is a problem when fighting white sharks and many have gained their freedom by using this tactic. Peter Goadby, in “Big Fish and Blue Water” states: “Some anglers fight white sharks with a light drag of only 30 lb on 130 lb line and then ease even more if the shark starts rolling; the boat is kept under power so that it can be manoeuvred to offset the rolling – it can be kept away to one side or ahead of the shark to avoid tangling of the leader. Other anglers believe in a heavy drag from strike to gaffing.

Strong heavy tackle anglers can often pull the shark back out of its “rolls” before all the leader is used up. The important technique in white as in other shark fishing, is even, constant pressure.” (ref. No.5)


Important Note: This species is now fully protected under The Wildlife Act, meaning it is now illegal to hunt, kill or harm a white pointer shark within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The fully protected status of the white shark in New Zealand came into force in April 2007 after this article was originally written. Please refer to the top of this page.

As I have said previously, I believe that white sharks are a relatively rare species in New Zealand waters. They have a rightful place in the marine ecosystem, ensuring natural selection by taking out the sick and weak, and ensuring that only the strongest survive to perpetuate the species. There is no room for the attitude “the only good shark is a dead shark,” who knows, at some future time white sharks may well require protection in certain areas.

If you decide to be merciful, instead of putting a gaff in, you could consider tagging the shark with a gamefish tag and by doing so, help marine scientists gain more information about the biology and habits of this species.

In conclusion, if you do tangle with a whitey, be sensible and cautious, you will be dealing with a marine creature of tremendous power, and above all, do not underestimate this species.

Off the South Island of New Zealand, there are white shark records for the taking, especially at the Chatham Islands. All it will take, is a solid boat, an experienced crew, good tackle and a sense of adventure. To put in jeopardy the IGFA World Records of Dean and Dyers.


1. Maneater Man. Colin Thiele, (Rigby Limited (Aust), 1979.

2. World Record Game Fishes, 1991 Edition International Game Fish Association, Florida

3. Sharks – Silent Hunters of the Deep. (various contributors) Readers Digest Services Pty. Ltd. N.S.W. 2010, 1985

4. Sportsfishing for Sharks. Captain Frank Mundus and Bill Wisner, McMillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York, 1971

5. Big Fish and Blue Water. Peter Goadby, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1970

6. The Natural History of Sharks. Thomas H. Lineaweaver III and Richard H. Backus, Andre Deutsch, London, 1970.

7. The Sharks of North American Waters. Jose I. Castro, Texas A & M University Press, College Station, U.S.A., 1983.

8. Shark Attack. H. David Baldridge, Everest Books Ltd., Great Britain, 1976.

9. The Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. J.L.B. Smith, Central News Agency Ltd., South Africa, 1949.

10. Big Game Fishes and Sharks of New Zealand. Arthur W. Parrott, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1958.

11. The Perano Whalers of Cook Strait, 1911-1964 A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, N.Z., 1982

White Shark Game Fish Profile by Dick Marquand

The common name is White Shark. Other Names: White pointer, Great white shark, Great White, White death, Maneater, Blue pointer (South Africa). Scientific Name: Carcharodon carcharias.

Identifying Characteristics

The white shark has a bulky yet streamlined body that is circular in cross-section with a bullet-shaped head and five pairs of long gill slits. A single well-defined wide caudal keel stabiliser is present on each side of where the tail joins the body and the upper and lower lobes of the tail are almost symmetrical. The large teeth are triangular, serrated and extremely sharp.

The colouration of the upper body varies from a dark or golden brown to a light grey, while the lower surface is an off-white or dirty white. A black or dark spot is present just behind each pectoral fin. The eye is black and lacks a nictitating membrane.

The white shark is a member of the Lamnidae or mackerel shark family and is warm-blooded, the body temperature is around 10deg. C warmer than the surrounding water.
Temperature Range 10deg. C to 30deg. C.


This species has worldwide distribution throughout temperate, subtropical and tropical waters. In New Zealand, white sharks appear to be more common in some North Island harbours (Manakau and Kaipara Harbours) and in the southern waters of Fiordland, Foveaux Strait, Otago Peninsula and the Chatham Islands. 

Shark cage diving and sightseeing tours into Foveaux Strait, between Stewart Island and Bluff – Shark Experience Bluff, NZ.


The white shark is a powerful predator and an opportunistic feeder, preying on large animals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales, tuna, turtles and other sharks.

Fishing Methods

The best fishing areas for this species are in the vicinity of southern fur seal colonies during the late summer and autumn months.

The use of chum or berley will considerably increase the angler’s chances of crossing paths with a white shark.

Heavy fishing tackle needs to be used, in either the I.G.F.A. 37 kg or 60 kg line classes. Hooks should be offset kirbed forged steel in 16/0 or larger sizes.

Very heavy steel traces are required, made of heavy aircraft cable with possibly a short length of chain near the hook, wrapped in insulation tape. Top-quality steel flying gaffs and tail ropes are required.

The fishing boat should be as large as possible with strong bollards for attaching gaff ropes and tail ropes. The crew needs to be experienced in handling large powerful fish.

Large live or dead baits fished in a chum trail, under a balloon, or close to a seal colony, will give the angler the best chances of hooking this species.

White Shark Fighting Characteristics

When the bait is taken by a white shark, the angler must be patient and allow the fish plenty of time to swallow the bait. If the shark is close to the surface, it should be struck hard with a tight line between six and a dozen times.

If the bait is taken deep below the surface, the boat should be taken forward and as the line comes uptight, the fish is struck hard between six and a dozen times.

This species is a powerful adversary making strong runs and if on the water, the white shark has been known to lunge half clear of the water.

Some anglers fight white sharks with a heavy drag right from the hook-up until the actual gaffing, while others prefer to only use a light drag. As the shark ties, it will almost certainly roll on the leader. When this happens, it pays to lighten the drag and attempt to keep ahead of the shark during the fight.

Dealing with a ton of white shark beside the boat is not for the faint-hearted. Under no circumstances should an attempt be made to gaff a “green” white shark, it is essential that the fish be played completely out. If you are in doubt, do not tangle with this species in the first place.


Noted game fishing expert Peter Goadby claims this species grows to a weight of over 4540kg (10,000lb) and a length of over seven metres.

At the time of writing, the I.G.F.A. All-Tackle World Record is 1208.38kg (2664lb) taken on 60kg gear by Alf Dean on 24 April 1959 in South Australian waters.

Several larger fish have been taken on rod and line, however, these were disqualified by the I.G.F.A. as record claims.

The New Zealand All-Tackle Record for white sharks is 263.4kg (580lb 11oz) taken by Dave Akast in the waters of Manukau Harbour on 21 February 1993.


The white shark is recognised as a game fish by both the International Game Fish Association and the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council.

This species is a proven man-eater in both New Zealand waters and overseas.

When excited by chumming, the white shark can become very aggressive. This species has been known to attack boats, once free of an angler’s line.

White Sharks Netted at Stewart Island by Dick Marquand

Southern Seafoods manager, Mr Merv Moodie with two white sharks recently netted from the waters of Halfmoon Bay at Stewart Island. The larger shark was around 3.4 metres (11ft) in length, while the smaller shark measured only 2.8 metres (9ft). Despite its appearance and reputation, the white shark is the ultimate sea predator and is only doing what nature intended it to do. Photo by John Hawkins, Courtesy of the Southland Times.

The sightings from aircraft of what were believed to be white sharks in the eastern waters of Stewart Island prompted local commercial fishermen to set a 100-metre shark net in the waters of Halfmoon Bay. On 2 January 1994, two white sharks were retrieved from the net. The larger shark was roughly 3.4 metres (11 ft) in length, had a girth of 2 metres (6.5ft) and weighed an estimated 350-400kg (770-8801b). The smaller shark was around 2.8 metres (9ft) in length, with a girth of 1.5 metres (4.9ft) and an estimated weight of 180-200kg (400-44Olb). Both these specimens were relatively small; as an example of this, the female white shark does not reach maturity until it attains a length of at least 4 metres (14ft).

The sighting of a third shark (possibly another white shark) north of Halfmoon Bay has prompted the setting of a second net.

I cannot help but feel that the whole white shark thing is getting a little out of hand and becoming paranoid. I stand by what I said in my article above.

I believe that white sharks are a relatively rare species in New Zealand waters. They have a rightful place in the marine ecosystem, ensuring the natural selection of species by taking out sick and weak marine creatures so that only the strongest survive to perpetuate the species. There is no room in our world for the attitude – the only good shark is a dead shark – who knows, at some future time, white sharks may well require legal protection in some areas. Important Note. The Great White Shark has been fully protected in New Zealand waters since April 2007.

Shark paranoia is obviously alive and well on our southern coastline. Who knows, perhaps there is room for a tourist industry involving steel cages from which paying customers can view this ultimate predator in its natural world. In the meantime, one thing is for sure: white sharks have far more to fear from mankind than mankind has to fear from white sharks.

This view of the head of a great white shark clearly shows the black eye and large triangular teeth. The small black spots forward of the eyes are surface pores that lead to specialised electroreceptor organs, these enable the shark to detect weak electric fields created by muscles and nerves of other species. Photo by John Hawkins, Courtesy of the Southland Times.

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