Tags Fish Guide

Shortfin Mako

Tags Fish Guide
MAKO sharks, in my opinion, are the most handsome of all sharks. They are also one of the most aggressive. After all, they are a cousin of the white pointer.  Makos are the most popular shark among game fishers owing to their agility and their ability to jump exceptional heights. Indeed bringing a big mako to the side of the boat is something to be undertaken with the utmost care and respect.  I can still remember a small mako that came up a berley trail south-west of Rottnest. Although less than two metres long it had a real nasty streak, snapping and shaking its head until we finally subdued it. I also recall that it tasted pretty good too.

The shortfin mako is believed to be the fastest of all shark species, reportedly clocked at 32kmh. In addition to being fast, makos can regulate their own body temperature using blood vessels along the lateral line and behind the eye, the latter being useful when feeding in very deep water.

A mako’s diet includes swordfish, tuna and squid but they will probably eat a wide range of fish species given the opportunity.  They have been recorded attacking boats and divers and are considered to be very dangerous by most shark experts. Happily larger specimens are generally found in deep water.  Common names for makos include blue pointer and mackerel shark.

Easily distinguished from blue sharks by its big black eye, heavy caudal peduncles and slender pointed teeth, the mako is quite easily identifiable. It is most frequently quite a bright blue in colour, whereas its close cousin the white pointer is generally grey to black in colour.  The colour on a mako is generally a bright metallic blue on the back with a distinct white underside. The underside of the snout and the area around the mouth are white, which helps differentiate the shortfin from the longfin mako, which has dark pigmentation around the mouth.  Being laminids, both mako and white pointer sharks have lunate tails; that is to say the size of the upper tail lobe is roughly the same size as the lower one. A useful tip if you happen to get a glimpse of one when diving.

The Game Fishing Association of Australia records the largest mako shark captured in Botany Bay, New South Wales, at a very healthy 443.5kg.  However, the vast majority of makos encountered by anglers in WA are under 100 kilos in weight. One notable exception being a mako of 271 kilos caught by the then Governor General of Western Australia, Sir Richard Trowbridge, back in 1988.

Mako sharks are a solitary pelagic species that inhabits temperate areas and the cooler, deeper waters of tropical regions. 

Breeding and migration
Both sexes have been estimated to mature at 4-6 years, with males being 2m in length at maturity and females 2.75m. However, recent research indicates that makos grow more slowly than this and that sharks of these sizes are approximately twice as old as previously estimated.  Mako sharks are ovoviviparous, which means their young are hatched from eggs in the parent’s uterus and born alive. Aggression starts young and during their time in the uterus mako shark foetus will cannibalise unfertilised or unhatched eggs. It’s a tough world that makos are born into.
Each female ultimately gives birth to 4-18 young makos of around 70cm in length.

Increasing captures in non-selective fisheries, such as longlines, are likely the biggest threat to this species. With the resurgence of the barbaric practise of ‘finning’ the pressure on larger makos will be increasing.  Many recreational anglers release sharks over 1.5m in length these days given the high mercury content in larger specimens. This fact alone would contribute to the conservation of these wonderful sharks in Australian waters.

Tackle and bait
I don’t know of any location in WA where mako sharks can be encountered on a regular basis, and therefore specifically targeting them is not widely practiced. As an incidental catch they can at times be taken when drifting for swordfish or berleying for other species of shark. Mako sharks are very difficult to predict.  Standard 15kg and 24kg shark fishing gear should do the job nicely. Baits can be a decent size fresh fish such as tuna, or a big squid rigged on a wire trace.

Fishing methods
If I set out to find a mako I would start looking around oceanic current lines. Having found some bait on the sounder I would start a berley trail and I would set up two 24kg outfits, one with a whole fish bait set at 20 metres and the other with a squid bait set at 60 metres. I would keep a third outfit ready to go in the boat just in case I saw a mako coming up the berley trail.  Indeed, keeping a watchful eye on what appears in the berley trail is a good way to catch big sharks.

References: Sea Fishes of Southern Australia by Barry Hutchins and Roger Swainston.
Compiled with the assistance of Rory McAuley of the West Australian Department of Fisheries, Research Branch.
Older Post
Silver Trevally
Newer Post
Shark Mackerel