Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)


The shortfin mako is by far the most popular of angling sharks, exceeding 1,000 pounds in weight and 13 feet in length.

The shortfin mako has a streamlined, well-proportioned body that is most striking for a vivid blue-gray or cobalt blue coloring on its back, which changes to a lighter blue on the sides and a snowy white on the belly; this brilliant coloring fades after death to a grayish-brown. Other characteristic features are a conical, sharply pointed snout; a large flattened keel on either side of the caudal peduncle; and a lunate (crescent-shaped) tail with lobes of nearly equal size.

The large first dorsal fin begins just behind the base of the pectoral fins. The shortfin mako can be easily distinguished from all other sharks by its teeth, which are slender and curved and lack cusps or serrations.

The warm-blooded mako is ovoviviparous, which means the eggs hatch inside the mother and the young are born alive; while in the uterus, the unborn young often resort to cannibalism until just one remains for birth.

Makos have all the characteristics of gamefish, in that they fight hard, have good endurance, and are fast, active, strong swimmers that jump, often spectacularly. Unfortunately for makos, they are also very good food fish—a quality that has endeared them to longliners and has led to a sharp decline in abundance.

Because female makos weigh more than 600 pounds before becoming mature, and only a few pregnant specimens have ever been recorded, it’s something of a miracle that there are any makos left in the oceans at all. The all tackle world record was a 1,115-pound fish taken off Mauritius in 1988, until superseded in 2001 by a 1,221-pounder caught off Massachusetts.

Other Names

blue pointer, bonito shark, dog shark, short-nosed mackerel shark.

Distribution

The shortfin mako is widely distributed throughout the oceans. In the western Atlantic it ranges from the Gulf of Maine to southern Brazil; in the eastern Pacific it ranges south of the Aleutian Islands to Hawaii, and from Southern California to Chile.

Although most abundant in temperate waters (64° to 70°F is considered ideal), some large makos adapt to temperatures in the upper 50s, and smaller makos often prefer waters in the 70s. A similar species, the longfin mako (I. paucus), is encountered mainly at night by anglers fishing great depths well offshore.
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