Coast KZN

20 Dec 2021

Great white scares Richards Bay fishing ski angler

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer)

An avid Richards Bay angler got more than he bargained for on Sunday when he found himself locked in the sights of a great white shark.

As he often does, Michael Roelofse headed out on his kayak fishing ski to try catch himself some snoek. They weren’t biting so he decided to anchor and do some bottom fishing, when along came his visitor.

‘It was about 9 am and I had kayaked out to about 12 km north of Richards Bay harbour,’ said Michael.

‘This inquisitive great white shark, I estimated to measure between 2.5 m and 3 m, nudged my kayak a few times.

‘I thought it would lose interest in me, but when it came up alongside my kayak, rolled onto its side and looked at me, I decided to head back to shore. ‘My anchor was stuck so I cut it off and didn’t look back!’

Great white behaviour

As with many marine mammals and fish, great white sharks are inquisitive creatures, and are renowned for drawing up alongside boats and rolling onto their sides to get a good look at the object of their attention.

This is known as ‘spy hopping’, and the great white is one of only a few sharks known to regularly lift its head above the sea surface to gaze at other objects.

Great whites are found in offshore and coastal surface waters of all major oceans with a temperature of between 12 and 24 degrees Celsius.

While the shark that Michael saw on Sunday was large, it was by no means fully grown. The average male great white shark reaches between 3.4 m and 4 m in length, while females usually reach between 4.6 m and 4.9 m. However, larger females have been known to reach 6.1 m in length.

With a lifespan of up to 70 years, the great white is one of the longest lived cartilaginous fishes currently known.

Protected internationally and listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as vulnerable, great whites feed on marine mammals up to the size of large baleen whales.

Humans are not the prey of the great white shark.