Great White sharks off Chatham

If we could count up all the time that Reel-Timers have spent fishing the beaches and waters surrounding Monomoy in Chatham over the years, it’d no doubt be an inspiring number.  As fishermen, we all are no doubt thrilled at the presence of great white sharks in our waters, an event which I take as a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

The presence of these fish is both blessing and curse.  While we currently see operators taking tourists on seal watching trips, I question how long it is before some enterprising soul takes that one step further and offers “great white watching tours.”

I offer this advice: it is best not to trifle with apex predators, and certainly not on their home waters.  These majestic fish are best left a wide berth to continue as they have since long before the first man ever set foot on the sands of the Cape.  They are few in number and as caring naturalists, we are best served to leave them unmolested.

That said, it’s definitely worth turning a beach fisherman’s eye towards the images we have of these fish on the prowl.

Note the seal in between the second and third wave, and the Great White in between the third and fourth wave. Picture courtesy of

First off, let’s think about the parts we fisherman have seen day in and day out: the striped bass and the seals.  We’re often taking striped bass in the first and second wave off the beach.  The fish are there to eat the sand eels that have been tossed around in the surf.  Similarly, we see the seals hanging around in the second and third wave, where they wait to nab the unsuspecting striped bass.

So then, why should it surprise us to find that perhaps the third and fourth wave now appear to be the realm of the great white, waiting for a chance at a tasty seal?

Bill Henchy points out a great site called “” which is the home for Capt. Bill Chaparales and Greg Skomal, who are tagging great whites for the state.

On that site, in addition to great pictures, they are also logging their daily contact.  Just two days ago they spotted 7 great whites off Chatham, ranging in size from 10 to 18 feet.  One large female was tagged within 150 feet of shore.  They also note that George Breen (the spotter pilot) spotted “15 foot great white shark stalking seals south of Lighthouse Beach on the Eastern side of Cape Cod.  In a failed attempt to attack a seal, the shark beached itself in shallow water but was able to turn around and swim back out to sea.

Brilliant stuff.  This is a website to watch daily for the season.

The appearance of these fish off the Cape isn’t anything new.  Several Reel-Timers have seen seal carcasses that bore the tell tale signs of predation on the beach in past year.

This is the classic predator/prey relationship.  Seals flourish, drawing the sharks in.  It’s a wonderful thing and we should be thankful to for sharing it with us.

Here is a video of Capt. Bruce Sweet and the crew of the Sweet Dream III tagging and releasing a great white on Stellwagen last month (thanks to Reel-Timer Marvin Lewiton for the pointer…)


Mark N. Cahill has been writing and editing for since 1995. He started fishing in the mid-1960's and caught his first striper off World's End in Hingham in 1966. From there on in it was an obsession. He loves fishing for tuna, and fly fishing for striped bass. In a pinch, anything with fins will do...

Posted in Articles, Lead Article, Shark Articles, Shark Videos
4 comments on “Great White sharks off Chatham
  1. avatar ryan says:

    More Great Whites mean more headless striped bass….
    I guess thats the price we pay for a more healthy ocean.

  2. avatar mncahill says:

    Actually, if the Great Whites prey on seals, they ought to help the striped bass, upon which the seals feed.

  3. avatar capt.chris says:

    If there are 10-15-thousand seals on the Cape, and each eats between 15 & 20Lbs/day, that’s 75 and 150 TONS of the kinds of fish WE WANT TO CATCH, eaten every day.
    That sounds like a problem to me ! Not to mention, any time there’s a seal around, off the northside of Nantucket , Falmouth, Cuttyhunk, Noman’s or Squibnocket, there could be a hungry GW right behind him – OR YOU !. Don’t jump over for that quick dip !

  4. avatar John Williams says:

    Younger great whites target striped bass as choice prey.

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