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Shark Bytes

December 2005 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Saturday, 31 December 2005

Compliments of the Season to everyone and hope that 2006 and is good year for your all.


December has been a good month for us despite it generally being our quietest time of the year. Right at the beginning of the month we had good conditions for our sevengill cow shark spot and decided to give it a bash. We had not been for a dive here since May so we weren’t sure if any would be in the area. After being in for about 40 minutes we were pretty cold and had seen a good number of endemic cat sharks and thought it would be a good time to get out in the following 5 minutes. Whenever we dive with these sharks I always feel a little on edge as it seems that they sneak up on you from nowhere and can give you quite a fright. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that their dorsal surface is very well camouflaged by the kelp beds, and then of course being a seriously large shark for the kelp environment! True to form we had a student volunteering with us and when the cow shark arrived undetected the shark went right for the volunteer’s fins! As always with the cow sharks it was an exciting dive and I personally was thrilled to see a shark after not seeing any for a good two months!


Cape Town in summer should be called The Windy City! This month it has been particularly bad going from gale force wind to very small periods of relative calm. We have made the most of every wind free opportunity and ended up with a number of fantastic pelagic trips.


At about 25 miles off Cape Point the yellowfin tuna has been prolific. On each trip we choose this area to look for sharks and on almost all the trips we would arrive and within minutes of putting bait in the water we would have yellowfin tuna feeding underneath us. The fish were all in the 40kg to 80kg (90 to 120 pound) class and they would then come and go through out the day giving our guests good opportunities to dive with them. When we are in the water with them they are completely no fussed and if we are very lucky we can get within touching distance of them. Believe me, it is quite an experience to be able view this magnificent fish as it swims at speeds of 30 km per hour around you! It has been interesting to note that on all trips this month we have had to wait a good while of between 2 and 3 hours for a shark to arrive. On one occasion an absolutely tiny blue shark arrived that was no more than 40cm long. This means that it was probably in its first few months of life. At the time we had a large shoal of yellowfin tuna around the boat and after about 2 minutes the baby blue shark decided that this was not good company for it and went off in search of smaller and better things … I guess!


In the middle of the month we had a small blue shark around the boat for most of the day that did not want to show itself properly and kept at about 10 meters below the boat. It stayed with us most of the day with no other sharks showing up so we decided to take a chance and try at Cape Point on our way home. Within one minute of putting a bait in the water we had a magnificent 2 meter mako around our boat. This male was really revved up and made a great showing of going for the bait and even mouthing the engines on numerous occasions. (They do this because the propellers send out a slight electric pulse that attracts the sharks’ attention).

On one occasion an absolutely tiny blue shark arrived that was no more than 40cm long.

Cape Point is a great spot to look for sharks as there is a possibility of a large variety of sharks. In the past we have seen mako sharks, blue sharks, smooth hammerheads and bronze whalers. Over the years fishermen have even sighted great whites on occasion. The draw back is that the visibility is often poor which is why when we have the chance to look for the warm and clean Agulas current it is always the first choice. Not long after the mako arrived Chris sighted a brown shape moving towards the boat. It turned out to be a large bronze whaler shark (or copper shark). It was similar in size to the mako shark and we were curious to see how the encounter between the mako and bronzie would play out. Well, if anything the bronzie seemed to have the right of way although its behavior was completely different. The mako would hang around the boat on the surface making large circles. On each circular pass it would make an attempt to go for the bait. On the other hand the bronzie would stay deep where we could not see it. It would then rush to the surface at good speed and storm towards the bait. If the mako was in its path, that was just tough luck for the mako and it would have to give way. When the bronze whaler would get the bait it would have it off the line in a few seconds flat whereas with the mako it has to work pretty hard to get smaller chunks off. This is because the dentition is different. The bronze whaler has sawing teeth, like the great white, whereas the mako had grasping teeth. The sawing action just needs a few shakes of the head to be effective.


The best trip of the month, and probably the one of our best trips of the year was two days before Christmas. The weather was for once perfect and within minutes of arriving a very large shoal of longfin tuna surrounded our boat. Everyone on board had a chance to dive and at one point, and this is no exaggeration, there were 1000 skipjack tuna, 500 longfin and about 100 yellowfin in the immediate vicinity of the boat. We were even able to do a bit of tag and release fishing. One of our guests optimistically brought his fly-fishing rod and reel along and had great fun trying to hook a tuna. He had never caught any sort of tuna before, not even on a normal rod and reel. When a longfin actually took a fly the look on his face was a mixture of pure panic, fear and excitement...pain also when his screaming reel burnt him a few times too!


After about 4 hours of waiting for sharks we had absolutely no sign of anything. Most of the sport fishermen know that we are out there to dive with sharks and they often times let us know if they have seen anything. On this day one of the sport fishing boats called us up to say that they had a really big mako around the boat that was chasing their tuna…would we like to take it from them? Without a second thought we raced over to them and within making a few passes of their boat we picked up the shark.


This shark must have been our Christmas present. It was a 2,5 meter female mako, an absolutely beautiful specimen! This is the second largest mako we have encountered and because we see the large sharks so rarely it is very exciting for us. At the same time of picking the shark up we also attracted a teenage seal. Before long both the seal and the mako were competing for the bait. We were absolutely amazed that the seal and the large shark seemed to be on an equal playing field. They regularly had close encounters and neither seemed to have the upper hand. We had always assumed that a large mako would dominate and quite possible have a go at a seal. Not on this occasion. The seal even barked at the mako a couple of times which was pretty interesting.


Both the shark and seal stayed with us for 3 hours and everyone who was wanting to dive had a great opportunity with what I think was one of our best sharks of the year!


We had a disastrous month with our website not being on line for most of the time so I have left up the images from the highlights of November and have also added some images of the large mako. I also think that many readers did not received the newsletter from November due to problems with that as well so please drop me an email if you would like to read that.


Everything on the website is up and running again so hope that you enjoy the Photo’s of the Month!


Best wishes

Monique Fallows


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