For the British angler porbeagles are the most exciting of all the sharks because of their size, power and relative abundance. They belong to the same family as the mako and the great white shark. However, the great white has never been reported in British seas and the mako is rare – both are less tolerant of cold water than porbeagles. Nevertheless, there is some risk of confusion between porbeagles and makos.
Porbeagle versus mako
You can distinguish the porbeagle from the mako by the position of the second dorsal fin. In the porbeagle it is opposite the anal fin, while in the mako it is in front. The porbeagle also has keel-like ridges on each side of its tail, and a bluntly rounded snout. The mako has no tail ridges and its snout is sharp.
The conclusive way of telling the two apart is by the shape of their teeth. In the porbeagle these are pointed with cusps on either side – these cusps are absent in the long at this point – they feed on any unfertilized eggs. The young are 60cm (24in) long when born. Porbeagles are unlikely to breed every year and this low productive rate is another reason for their ever-decreasing numbers.
A-hunting we will go
Waters off the south-west of England and west of Ireland are ideal places to go hunting for these barrel-like fish. They often come fairly close inshore in summer in their search for food, and follow the mackerel back to deep water offshore in winter.
This is not an everyday fish for the sea angler, but a catch to make with strong, good quality tackle. Use rubby dubby to attract the porbeagle to your boat, then mackerel or herring bait. This monster will fight long and hard, and is not a quarry for inexperienced or solitary anglers. mako. (Don’t be too hasty in using this method to tell the difference between the two – often what looks like a dead shark is very much alive!) Sharks also grow replacement teeth and two or three rows can be mature at any one time.
Like most sharks, porbeagles are blue on their sides and back, and have a white underbelly which helps them to merge into their surroundings.
Ever decreasing circles
Porbeagles are fast swimmers and spend their lives on the trail of schooling fish, such as mackerel (hence the nickname mackerel shark), herring and pilchard, hunting them for food. They swim fairly close to the surface in small groups, and are occasionally caught up in the nets of trawlers.
Unfortunately, because of the overfishing of mackerel and herring, porbeagles are much scarcer than they once were. The Norwegians fish for porbeagles intensively, making use of their flesh and massive oil-filled livers. They work mainly off the west coast of Ireland, each boat using several floating long lines.
Like all sharks, porbeagles are slow-growing and take several years to reach sexual maturity. They bear their young live, producing one ‘pup’ at a time when the females are small and up to four when they are fully grown.
The embryos lie free in the mother’s uterus, and when they have absorbed their own yolk sac – they are about 6cm (2.4in)