Joe Fricia, a Santa Barbara-based commercial fisherman, summed it up this way: "In 41 years of commercial fishing, this tops anything I've ever experienced."
He was referring to a 17-foot 7-inch great white shark that he caught in his gill net early Wednesday morning. The monster weighed 4,140 pounds. Fricia caught the shark in his 3,600-foot-long net at 5 a.m., roughly midway between Catalina and San Pedro. He was fishing for swordfish, bonito and thresher sharks at the time.
The toothy shark was so big and tough, Fricia reported, that it was almost too tough to die.
"It wasn't all that badly entangled in the net when we brought the net in," he said. "We gaffed him right away, then got a rope around his tail and started towing him backwards. Usually, that kills a shark. But he (it was later discovered to be a female) still had a little life left by the time we'd towed him all the way to San Pedro."
Fricia said he has already sold the shark's jaws and accompanying armament of two-inch-long, serrated teeth to a collector in Florida for "somewhere between $1,600 and $5,000."
The rest of the shark was donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. On Thursday afternoon, ichthyologists dissected the shark at the museum's Vernon warehouse. Its stomach contained a half-digested seal or sea lion.
Jeff Seigel, fish collection manager at the museum, said the great white was the largest shark caught in Southern California waters since 1976, when a 4,500-pounder that measured 18 feet was caught, also by a commercial fisherman.
The sportfishing record (rod and reel) for great white sharks is 2,664 pounds, set in Australia in 1959.