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Corky Carroll takes a look at San Onofre's shark boom

 Not San Onofre, but South Africa


Sharks like the trail #1 area of San Onofre Surf Beach

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 2 June, 2010 : - - Today I have the completion of Dave Schulte's story on the local sharks that inhabit the Trail #1 area of San Onofre Surf Beach. I contacted Dave, as he seems to be the expert on this and the dude who shot the famous video that has been seen on zillions of television shows of the shark at San O back in 2003, to ask him about this situation.

Now that sharks are being born locally, they must eat locally. Because Catalina is so small, they must come to our coast to feed on smaller schooling/bottom-fish food, and for freshwater to rinse parasites. Their mothers sometimes follow them to shore.

All sharks that are under 12 to 14 feet (have a) main diet of bottom fish like halibut, dead carcasses and smaller inshore schooling fish (anchovies, sardine and grunion). I have a higher sighting rate during grunion runs and summer bait schooling. Sharks under 12 feet don't eat pinnipeds (seals) or young dolphins yet, so surfers are not regarded as food by these juvenile sharks.

Another myth is human blood. There have been studies done that indicate that white (any) sharks are not attracted to human blood at all (only fish blood) and that human bile (vomit from the stomach) was the only thing that sparked any type of human attractant.

All great whites are also looking for fresh water (up to twice a year) to rinse their gills and remove the parasites (like fleas on a dog). I will explain below why the white sharks are seen jumping out of the water so much at San O. They make the most amazing splashes because they are not graceful, but practical.

Why Trail One/San O

1) Proximity to Catalina and migration route. (The 9-mile channel actually bends out to really deep water in front of San O, causing the sharks to veer off course.)

2) Lots of baitfish with new kelp reefs, Songs warm water outlet (A secret spot called Nukes, very sharky) in front of Songs, long sloping sandy beaches with cobblestone points to concentrate the baitfish, and relatively clean, calm and warm water.

3) The big white sharks (mothers) make their way up to Seal Rock in San Clemente when they need to grab a meal (I witnessed that last January with a good pair of binoculars while checking the surf.)

4) After an intense El Niño year in the late '80s, Trail One totally collapsed as an underground river, rerouted itself though the trail and out in the ocean. It pushed a bunch of rocks to the surface, which created a new rock reef/point where there was once just sand. This now allows the freshest/pure clean water to constantly flow from the rocks year round. (Only other fresh water off the coast like this is north of Point Conception.) So you can see its importance and benefit to the great white shark. All great whites, regardless of their size, use this water to rinse and kill the parasites off them and then they breach out of the water to remove them. I have seen them breach dozens of times and that is how I first discovered the white sharks at San O in February 2002 when one breached in the lineup about seven months before the whale was buried there.

5) Now the reason they stay. In August 2002, a large whale landed on the beach at Trail One, thus creating the perfect storm. This whale is still leaching fluids/oils from the water line at Trail One to this day and can be seen as its bones pop up in the winter after sand is removed by storms.

So the bottom line is that small white sharks can sense this from miles away and it gives them a false alarm that food is present, so they come in and stay, hoping for a chance to feed on this carcass, while the fresh water and baitfish keep them here until they grow up and migrate out to sea to eat bigger animals, not surfers.

What's your take on this?
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Corky Carroll

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