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Shortfin mako-Isurus oxyrinchus
There is nothing in the ocean that can be compared to the shortfin mako.
There are plenty of mako disaster stories from around the world; including wrecked cockpits and
injuries to anglers. Some mako fiasco stories will never be told, because the embarrassed anglers
got their reputations and asses kicked. We have some of the largest makos in the world right
here in New England. This is a photo of one, 20' in the air on the east side of Stellwagen Bank.
There are two species of mako.
The other mako species, the longfin, Isurus paucus, is not in our coastal New England waters. The
longfin mako is found farther offshore in the Canyons and on down toward the Caribbean. It stays well
offshore, and they are not as plentiful as the shortfin, Isurus oxyrinchus. The longfin mako, Isurus
paucus can be differentiated from the shortfin by its long swept back pectoral fins-hence its common
name, “longfin”. Otherwise the teeth, and the body appearance are just like a shortfin. When anglers
use the word mako, they are in almost every case referring to the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus.
The longfin mako, Isurus paucus is a protected species, and is rarely encountered by anglers
IGFA Record - 1,221 lbs. set here in Massachusetts
.....Massachusetts State record - 1,324 lbs.
Info on the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus
Females: 12-1/2 foot fork length -Max weight - 1,700 lbs.
Males: 9 foot fork length - The heaviest male mako that I know of weighed 624 lbs.
Mid 60 deg. water is considered ideal for makos, larger makos can tolerate water in the low 50s.
Snout is pointed. - Eyes are solid black - Lower tail is 80- 90% as long as upper tail.
Body is streamlined, with a dark bluish black back and a snow white bottom.
Body section going into tail is bulged out and flattened.
Second dorsal is very small and slightly ahead of anal fin.
The longfin has a dark area
under the lower jaw, and the
area from the upper jaw to the
snout will also be dark.
The shortfin mako, will have
white in those areas above and
below the mouth, and will have
shorter pectoral fins.
Typical mako teeth are smooth
edged, and dagger like.
Exceptionally large makos, have
teeth more wedge shaped.
The left photo shows typical
mako front lower jaw teeth.
The right photo is a mako well
over a thousand pounds.
The teeth in very large makos
are shaped somewhat similar to
those of a white shark. A white's
teeth will have serrations, a
mako's will not..
IGFA World Record mako caught in Massachusetts
The present IGFA world record for the
heaviest shortfin mako is 1,221 lbs. That world
record wasn’t set in Australia or some other
far away exotic world location; it was caught
here in New England - more specifically off
Chatham Mass. on July 21, 2001.
Capt Chris Peters, angler Luke Sweeney, and
crewmen Doug Abdelnour and Dave Gaffey
caught it during the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark
Tournament-which requires participants to
follow IGFA rules.
They were fishing in a 24-foot World Cat, the
smallest boat in the tournament. It was a
hectic 3-hour battle with the mako splashing
water into the boat when it jumped and landed
close alongside. The record size mako freed
itself from a fly-gaff midway in the fight and
continuing to battle for over an hour longer
until subdued. It was towed back to the
After that record mako catch, Capt. Peters
“got a bigger boat.”
His 24-foot Dazed and Confused was replaced
with a 35 footer.
On July 27, 1999, Capt. Kevin Scola on the left, and
angler Billy Silvia on the "Survival", took on rod and
reel, a 1,324 lb. mako in Mass. Bay at Stellwagen
They brought the mako into their homeport Green
Harbor, Marshfield Mass. It was weighed the
I saw the fish intact, and it was enormous. It was 11
foot 2 inches to the fork and 96 inches in girth.
It did not qualify as an IGFA record, because the fish
was fought out of the rod holder.
This 1,324 pounder is a new Massachusetts State rod
and reel record.
Photo - Belsan's Bait and Tackle, Scituate Mass.
Largest rod and reel mako in the world.
The photo on the left is a scanned local
newspaper photo from the Old Colony
On July 8, 1997, Capt. Tom O’Reilly and
Paul Herbert left Plymouth, Mass. on the
Karen M heading for Stellwagen Bank for
some tuna fishing. Before reaching
Stellwagen they encountered a group of
giant tuna about 13 miles out. They followed
the tuna, and harpooned the largest shape
in the group. It wasn’t a tuna! It was an
enormous mako swimming right along with
the tuna. Who would have expected that?
The mako was not bothered by the
electrical jolt which would kill a tuna
instantly. The mako jumped out of the
water, and a battle on the 1,200- foot
handline ensued. There were only two
people onboard, and to handline this big
mako, and maneuver the boat at the same
time would be quite a tiring, and a
They needed some assistance.
Help arrived when Andy Glynn came over on the Ridla and joined them in fighting the mako.
When the mako was subdued, it was gutted.
Even then, it was too heavy for the hoisting gear to lift it onboard. This mako was a lot heavier than the
thousand pound giant tuna that the boat is equipped to handle.
Using 2 boats and 8 men they managed to get the mako onboard. In typical unpredictable fashion, the
gigantic mako began thrashing around in the cockpit. Not an unusual mako occurrence.
It will turn out to be one of the largest makos ever taken anywhere in the world, by any means.
The mako was brought into Brewers Marina in Plymouth, Mass. It was weighed on a crane scale; it
weighed in at 1,530 lbs. This was after it had been gutted. Intact you would expect this mako would have
weighed 1,700 lbs. or possibly more.
Enormous mako harpooned in Mass. Bay
The mako took the bait, and initially it swam off like a big blue shark-slow and powerful. Taylor did a
great job as angler. I explained that since we were using a conventional wire shark rig, and not a wind
on leader, that we couldn’t get the mako within 15 feet of the rod tip, because the wire section would
not come through the rod tip - also, it would be too dangerous to ask the charter to wire up the mako
or try to harpoon it. I had the two children get out of the cockpit and stay forward since makos can and
do jump into cockpits.
I have had lot of experience with makos; and we had no wireman, so when Taylor brought the shark in
as close as he could, I had Taylor put the rod in the forward holder and grab the harpoon while I
swung the boat to get the mako within harpoon range off the stern - with the mako’s head pointing
away from us.
I told Taylor to stick it behind the dorsal toward the tail. This greatly reduces the problem of the mako
jumping into the cockpit. Also they come back tail first on the handline and are easier to tail wrap.
Taylor made a perfect throw and got the harpoon dart into the rear section of the mako. (Good job
The enraged mako bolted away from the boat, peeling line off the rod and reel in the rod holder and
taking all the harpoon dart line, and the attached ball, right out of the cockpit. The ball bounced along
the water and went under. Taylor resumed fighting the mako on the rod, but later on, the snap swivel
from the mono running line to the wire leader broke. Now we had to find the ball and handline the
mako. Those balls look big in the cockpit, but look much smaller when being towed along in the ocean.
What happened to that tuna? A mako happened!
Here is the story on the photo
I captain several boats out of the Mill Wharf
Marina in Scituate, Mass.
On Thursday August 27th, 2009, I was
captaining a 30 foot Grady White, with Capt.
Taylor Sears as the mate, and Bob and Pam
Mayo from Dartmouth Mass, and their two
children, Elizabeth and Ian Mayo, 10 and 12
years old, as the charter.
We left Scituate harbor and went fishing for
bluefin tuna near the SW Corner of
Stellwagen Bank, about 17 miles away.
Mid morning we hooked a tuna. Bob Mayo
had been fighting it for about 40 minutes when
the tuna surfaced close to the boat-and we all
saw a mako attack it. The result is the mako
took the back section off the tuna. (photo rt.)
I always have a shark rig handy, and we put
out the wire shark rig, baited with a piece of
the mutilated tuna. The charter agreed to let
the mate Taylor be the angler.
The durability of a mako.
Michael Pratt and Jeffrey Blackman, well known tuna fishermen out of Green Harbor, Mass.
were tuna fishing on Stellwagen Bank in mid August, 2007. They were using rod and reel, and a
live bluefish for tuna bait. They took a mako that after being gutted, weighed-in over 800 lbs.
This catch in itself is interesting because of the large size of the mako, but what happened after
the catch is interesting too.
They gutted the mako in the water, and left it alongside the boat.
Removing any mako’s insides and liver is fatal to the mako, but unlike other earthly creatures,
not immediately fatal. Makos die on their terms, not ours.
After lying alongside the boat for 45 minutes, the mako was brought onboard. Fifteen minutes
later, this gutted and presumed dead mako went berserk in the cockpit. It clamped down on the
gunnel with its teeth, and started ripping it up; breaking its teeth in the process. This 800 lb+
mako got its body to snap bounce up 6 feet in the air and slam down on the deck sending
shudders through the boat. Because the mako was so large, it spanned the cockpit, gunnel to
gunnel, and on the other side of the boat, with a violent tail swipe, the mako knocked a fairly
new Shimano Tiagra 130 rod and reel out of the rod holder, sent it high up in the air and
overboard - a $2,000 rod and reel gone in a matter of seconds. Mike hit the Man Overboard
Button on the GPS, to mark the location of the lost gear.
The next day, they returned to the lost rod and reel location, with a diver, Robert Macaleese.
They had dropped a marker anchor, and Rob went down to the bottom in 110 feet of water, and
recovered the rod and reel. He said it was within 15 feet of the marker anchor on the bottom.
A post script to that story:
I spoke to Mike’s father, Ralph Pratt, who flies his own spotter plane out of Marshfield
Ralph was flying over Cape Cod Bay, and on a tip from another spotter pilot Wayne Davis,
Ralph flew over an extraordinarily large mako, south of the “Fishing Ledge.” - toward the area
referred to as the “Parking Lot.” Ralph called his son Michael to check it out. Mike came over
in his boat, got behind and close to the cruising mako, followed it, and estimated its size.
Michael said it was a lot larger than the 800+lb. mako that he had caught a few days earlier –
He estimated it to be about 1,500 lbs. They let it swim off, and continued looking for tuna. Pilot
Wayne Davis who saw that same mako earlier, took a photo. (see below)
Ralph Pratt has been a spotter plane pilot for 20 years. He told me that in the last couple of years he has
seen more big makos in Cape Cod Bay, Mass. Bay, at Stellwagen Bank, and at Wildcat Knoll areas than
he had previously seen.
10 feet . 750 lbs.
9.5 feet 620 lbs
9 feet 525 lbs.
8.5 feet 439 lbs.
8 feet . 363 lbs.
7.5 feet 297 lbs.
7 feet 239 lbs.
6.5 feet 189 lbs.
6 feet 147 lbs.
Biologist John Chisholm asked if it could be left intact for State and Federal biologists to dissect the next
morning, because there was a lot of scientific interest in this large male mako.
The charter agreed to this. The fish was iced down and left in a tuna bag overnight.
The next morning, Dr. Greg Skomal and John Chisholm from the State, and other biologists, dissected it.
Samples were taken and were distributed to the scientific community.
The Mayo family came back and got their mako steaks as promised. Many in the crowd that gathered also
got some steaks. I missed out on the steaks and the necropsy that morning, as I was back out tuna fishing .
So far it is the largest documented male mako known to science. - Tom
When I saw the male claspers I was somewhat disappointed because it would be rare for a male
shortfin mako to exceed 500 lbs. (Some female makos will weigh well over a thousand pounds.)
I called Mass. State shark biologist John Chisholm and told him we were bringing in a larger than usual
From the Patriot Ledger newspaper:
"Steve James, the president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, and John Chisholm, an aquatic
biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, were there to take official measurements
of the shark. Officially, the shark weighed 624 pounds, had a 67-inch girth, and was 9 feet, 1-1/2
inches from the head to the fork of the tail."
When we would get close to the ball with the boat, the mako would dive and take the ball under.
Eventually, when I would get the ball alongside, Taylor would get the ball back into the cockpit and get
on the handline only to have the mako bolt and pull the ball overboard. This happened several times.
Finally, Taylor with the help of Bob and Pam Mayo and myself were able to bring in the mako, and
tail wrap it.
Christian Valle had a similar experience to
mine when a mako chopped off his tuna's tail.
The mako stayed around his boat and he took
these photos -tom
RANGE OF THE SHORTFIN MAKO
biologists dissect the mako the next morning.