Kayaker in California Battles a Persistent Shark


A California fisherman had to fight off a shark last weekend, and he’s pretty sure it was after more than just his catch.

Mark McCracken, 33, was trolling for bonito off the Santa Barbara coast when a very aggressive hammerhead started circling his kayak. He says he couldn’t tell if it was ramming it, biting it or doing something else entirely. All he could do was hit it with his paddle and hope it would swim away.

But the battle continued for about fifteen minutes, as McCracken aimed blow after blow at the shark’s eyes and head. “I had to hit him over 20 times before he finally gave me some space but still stalked me for half a mile all the way back to shore,” he said.

When he got to the beach, he looked around and saw that the creature was lingering.

“Even after I was on shore, he paced back and forth in about three feet of water like he was just waiting for me to come back out,” the fisherman recalled. “Pretty bizarre and crazy experience, to say the least.”

Shark 02
McCracken is hardly the only angler to experience an encounter with a shark off the California coast recently, as SF Gate reports. On Tuesday, beachgoers cleared the waters off Malibu when an eight-foot-long hammerhead was hooked from the local pier.

Last week, a kayak fisherman off Dana Point encountered an “aggressive” hammerhead which attempted to strip his catch from the side of his boat. While a friend filmed the unusual interaction, the hammerhead was eventually able to make off with most of its prey.

Shark 01According to KSWB-TV in San Diego, other kayakers have taken their own videos and photos of recent hammerhead shark sightings in the same area, and lifeguards closed a San Diego beach at the end of August, after a shark had been spotted.

Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor at Cal State Long Beach, says that warming waters in the eastern Pacific, resulting from an unusually strong El Niño, have induced prey fish to migrate to new areas. And the sharks are following them.

“Warm water is bringing the food up here, and the food is being followed by its predators. That’s how we get that subtropical food web that we normally don’t have.”

Lowe also reported that a “whole tropical food chain” has migrated into the region, bringing along hammerhead sharks, as well as juvenile great whites.