Story last updated at 2:32 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Salmon shark takes bite out of day's catch
By Matt Tunseth
Morris News Service-Alaska

photo: news
  Photo provided
Jeremy Gray of Soldotna holds up the remains of a halibut that was bitten off his hook by a salmon shark in Kachemak Bay recently. According to biologists, salmon sharks can grow to 6 to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 800 pounds. Sightings of the predator are not uncommon in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet.  
A peninsula man got more bite than he bargained for recently while fishing aboard a charter boat in Kachemak Bay.

Soldotna angler Jeremy Gray was fishing for halibut with friends aboard a Homer Ocean Charters fishing boat June 22 when the unusual fish tale began to unfold. He had brought a small halibut to within 10 feet of the surface when he felt his line go limp, according to his father, Jerry Gray, who was along on the charter.

"All of a sudden he said it got real light and limp. Then one of the guides said, 'Jeez, there's a shark down there,'" Gray said.

The shark in question was a salmon shark, one of the largest predators in Cook Inlet. The shark grabbed the halibut and ripped it in half with a flash of its razor sharp teeth.

Gray said everyone aboard had plenty of time to get a good look at the toothy poacher, which he estimated to weigh around 700 pounds.

"He swam around the boat for a while before swimming off. It was cool. It was the first time I've seen one myself that was actually swimming around," he said.

Scott Meyer is a groundfish biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer. He said such attacks, while brutal, aren't unheard of in the inlet.

"Most salmon sharks are actually hooked by people fishing for halibut," Meyer said. He said the smell of bait, coupled with thrashing halibut, is often irresistible to a salmon shark, whose diet is composed mainly of other fish.

"They tend to be more of a fish eater than most sharks," Meyer said.

Meyer said the size of the shark also is not uncommon. He said salmon sharks typically average around 6- to 8-feet long and can grow to as much as 800 pounds or more. They are common in the North Pacific, though little is known about their numbers.

"They're not as common in Cook Inlet as Prince William Sound, but they're definitely there," Meyer said.

Gray said seeing such a large shark lurking beneath the boat was enough to cause some anglers on board the boat a bit of concern.

"Some of the people were a little bit worried. They sure didn't want to sit close to the edge of the boat for a while," he said.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.