Friday started out just like any other beautiful California day for fisherman Mark Davis. Just after dawn, the retired Silicon Valley landscaper put his 15-foot skiff into the water and headed into Monterey Bay to catch live squid for bait. At around 6:15 a.m., the calm morning turned to horror when Davis felt a “big thud” against the hull of his open boat. He watched the bow lift four feet out of the water and held on for dear life as a nearby fisherman yelled, “Holy sh*t! It’s a great white!”
“We looked in the water and there was a 15-foot great white, and that thing was really charged up. It was ripping back and forth, looking around. It was basically a full-on slam attack,” Davis said.
Davis, who was not injured in the incident, told KSBW News that he’d seen sharks in the area before, but none as large and aggressive as the great white shark that menaced him early Friday morning.
“This thing was huge. I’ve never seen anything that large in the water before, and I’ve see a lot of fish. It was a full on slam attack from down below. He came and hit the boat full speed and knocked it into the air. He wasn’t fooling around, and I’m glad it didn’t knock me out because I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the water. He was aggressive and fired up.”
The attack, which left a shark tooth embedded in the hull of Davis’ fishing vessel, was not the only recent encounter between fishermen and great whites in Monterey Bay. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Dale Isidro was aboard his 19-foot fishing boat on Tuesday afternoon, angling for halibut and sea bass, when he noticed a shark “about two feet away.” Isidro told reporters the following:
“For a good half-hour, he kept circling the boat. Eventually he went deeper and swam away. I was happy — that was my goal, seeing a white shark. I’ve seen him cruise by, 30 or 40 yards away, a couple of times, but I’ve never gotten close-up.”
That same day, fisherman Myron Larson had his own close-up shark encounter near the Capitola one-mile buoy. Larson, who did not tell Sentinel reporters that he works as a rocket scientist, encouraged the shark to stick around by tossing squid into the water.
“He was there and he splashed the boat and got me all wet. It was pretty cool.”
Pelagic Shark Research Foundation Director Sean Van Sommeran describes the Santa Cruz County coast as a “red triangle” that encompasses Monterey Bay, the Farallon Islands, and Bodega Head. A seal rookery known as Año Nuevo lies a mere 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. Seals are some of the great white shark’s favorite snacks, along with rays, seabirds, fish, marine turtles, and other sharks.
None of last week’s reported great white shark encounters resulted in tragedy, as neither fishermen nor shark were killed. Not everybody who meets a great white in coastal waters fares so well, however. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, there have been 101 reported shark attacks off the coast of the Golden State since 1950, and 13 of them were fatal. SharkAttackData lists data going back to 1900 and lists 184 unprovoked shark attacks in California coastal waters, 16 of which resulted in human death.
The most recent shark attack fatality in California occurred at Surf Beach in Lompoc on October 23, 2012, when 39-year-old surfer Francisco “Paquito” Solorio, Jr. suffered a deadly great white shark bite to his torso. Just two years before, on October 22, 2010, 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara chemical engineering student Lucas Ransom was attacked and killed by a shark as he boogie boarded at the same beach. Other fatal shark attacks include incidents in Solano Beach in San Diego County in 2008, Kibesillah beach in Mendocino County in 2004, and Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County in August, 2003.
[Photo by Ramon Carretero/AP Images]