These Common Types of Sharks
Are Common No More

All types of sharks are cartilaginous fish. That is to say they don't have a bone in their body. Cartilage yes, but real bone no. Along with skates and rays, their skeleton is made of cartilage.

Another shared characteristic with skates and rays is the absence of a swim bladder, which means that if they don't want to sink like a stone they need to keep swimming.

Many sharks are under threat of extinction, largely due to the world's (and in particular China's) increasing appetite for sharks' fin soup.

The appalling practise by commercial shark fishermen of cutting off the fins and throwing the rest of the fish - still alive - back into the sea is not just unsustainable, it's utterly disgraceful.

Shark are distinctly uncuddly creatures and, being often on the receiving end of bad press internationally, this somehow seems to make such treatment acceptable.

OK, personal rant over, let's take a look at the most common types of sharks that cruise around in the Atlantic Ocean.

All artwork by Keith Linsell

Blue Shark

French ~ Peau bleu

Italian ~ Verdesca

Spanish ~ Tintorera

Portuguese ~ Tintureira

German ~ Grosser Blauhai

The Blue Shark; Latin name - prionace glauca

Blue Shark
prionace glauca

The Blue Shark is the most plentiful of all types of sharks that frequent the Atlantic waters of Britain and Northern Europe during the summer months.

In warmer seas it is said to grow up to 20 feet, but hereabouts their average weight is around 30lb to 50lb. Even so, the British record is an excellent specimen caught off Looe in Cornwall, which tipped the scales at 218lb.

It's a beautiful fish, long and slender with a dark indigo back, bright blue flanks and a pure white underside.

Porbeagle Shark

French ~ Taupe

Italian ~ Smeriglio

Spanish ~ Cailón, Marrajo

Portuguese ~ Tuberão-sardo

German ~ Herringshai

The Porbeagle Shark; Latin name -  lamna nasus

Porbeagle Shark
lamna nasus

The Porbeagle Shark is much more tolerant of cold water than the Blue Shark. In fact the British record fish of 507lb was caught off Dunnet Head in the far north of Scotland.

They are known to venture close inshore in some parts, but they're more frequently found around tide races, reefs and rocky outcrops - especially if deep water is close by.

Porbeagle Shark will eat almost any fish that swims, but herring and mackerel are probably at the top of its personal hit list.

Mako Shark

French ~ Mako, Taupe Bleu

Italian ~ Squalo Mako, Ossirina

Spanish ~ Marrajo

Portuguese ~ Tuberão-anequim

German ~ Mako, Makrelenhai

The Mako Shark; Latin name - isurus oxyrynchus

Mako Shark
isurus oxyrynchus

For many shark anglers, the Mako is the king of sharks. Hook one of these and you've got a real battle on your hands. A Mako Shark has much more power and stamina than a Blue or Porbeagle of similar size, and will leap to spectacular heights in its attempt to regain its freedom.

They're a true pelagic fish of the open ocean, where they feed predominantly on mackerel, bonito and herring in the upper levels. Mako Shark grow to a huge size - the world record being over 1,000lb - and are ferocious predators. Distinctly uncuddly and definitely not one to go swimming with!

In appearance they closely resemble a large Porbeagle, but there are some key differences:~

  • The Mako is a leaner fish than the Porbeagle, but less so than a Blue Shark.
  • Its second dorsal fin is positioned further forward than its anal fin, whereas on the Porbeagle, both fins are in line.
  • The leading edge of the dorsal fin is aft of the trailing edge of the pectoral fin, whereas the Porbeagle's dorsal fin commences further forward.
  • The Mako's back is a vivid blue in contrast to the brownish grey of the Porbeagle.
  • The Mako's teeth are rather long and irregular, whilst the Porbeagle's are much neater with each individual tooth sporting two tiny cusps at its base.
  • The Mako has only one caudal keel on each side of its tail, whereas the Porbeagle has two.

These types of sharks are now rare around British coasts, but the current British rod-caught record stands at 500lb. This great fish was caught back in 1971 near the Eddystone Rocks, which are some 12 miles off my home port of Plymouth.

Hammerhead Shark

Another very rare visitor to British waters - so much so that no Hammerhead Shark have yet been caught here on rod and line.

So the British record is up for grabs - catch just one Hammerhead and it's yours!

The Hammerhead Shark; Latin name - sphyrna zygaena

Hammerhead Shark
sphyrna zygaena

But you'd have to go some to beat the one caught off Florida in 2006 - over 14 feet long and weighing in at 1,262lbs. A huge fish, with a head 3 feet wide.

Hammerhead Sharks are unmistakable of course, with their laterally flattened head and their eyes located in the end-plates.

Six-Gilled Shark

A relative minnow by shark standards, the six-gilled shark is so named because - in a defiant gesture of one-upmanship - it has six gills along either side of its throat, rather than the standard shark set of five.

The Six-Gilled Shark; Latin name - hexanchus griseus

Six-Gilled Shark
hexanchus griseus

This is a bottom feeding shark, and is mostly caught accidentally by anglers fishing for skate and rays.

The British rod-caught record for these types of sharks currently stands at 9lb 8oz for a specimen caught off Penlee Point, Plymouth.

Thresher Shark

Another easily identified shark, this one incorporating a design modification at the other end in the form of an impressive extension to the upper tail lobe.

It's as long as the rest of the shark's torso, and is used to corral a shoal of mackerel or herring into an even tighter bunch.

The Thresher Shark; Latin name - alopias vulpinus

Thresher Shark
alopias vulpinus

Having done so, the Thresher Shark gives the terrified fish a sharp 'thwack' with his tail, then leisurely proceeds to dine on the casualties. Clever.

Another large shark, approaching a maximum weight of 1,000lb or more.

The current British rod-caught record for Thresher Sharks weighed-in at 323lb was caught near the Nab Tower off Portsmouth.

All these types of sharks are in serious decline, and it can't be blamed on global warming. It's overfishing, both commercially and recreationally, so we anglers must all practice 'catch and release' if we're to help these wonderful creatures avoid extinction.

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