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Welcome to the wild world of great whites

A surfer was attacked Tuesday morning off Monterey by what initially was described as a 20-foot great white shark.

Hours later, a younger, much smaller white shark was put on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in an ongoing attempt “to change public attitudes and promote greater protection for these magnificent and much-maligned ocean predators.”

The irony was not lost on those at the aquarium. They knew their timing was poor and presumed the attack would be sensationalized. But they remained confident their 5-foot specimen would not be perceived as something evil.

“What’s been really amazing with the past sharks is how visitors react with comments like, ‘It’s so small,’ or ‘It’s cute,’ ” says Ken Peterson, aquarium spokesman. “Having a young-of-the-year shark seems to evoke the exact opposite of the ‘something evil’ reaction.”

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Sure enough, the attack on Todd Endris was sensationalized. Contrary to witness accounts and subsequent radio and TV reports, it turned out to be an estimated 12- to 13-foot specimen, a young adult, that dragged him under briefly as he sat on his board off Marina State Beach just north of Monterey.

He remained hospitalized Thursday with wounds to his torso and right thigh.

When white sharks reach about 12 feet, experts says, they begin preying on seals and sea lions, instead of fish. And the attack on Endris, like most or all white shark attacks on humans, was probably a case of mistaken identity.

“This is about the time they’re returning to the area and there are a lot of people in the water,” says Peter Klimley, a prominent researcher from UC Davis. “The sharks are moving to and from seal colonies and if you happen to be in the wrong place and you are an object at the surface” you risk being attacked.

Still, attacks on humans are rare. Fewer than three occur annually along the entire West Coast. State Department of Fish and Game Department records show that off California there have been 93 nonfatal and 10 fatal attacks since the 1920s.

There is no direct evidence showing consumption of victims; most died as a result of injuries sustained during the initial strike.

Endris, therefore, is extremely fortunate that the predator that bit him, before realizing its mistake, was not a 20-footer.

GW Junior on exhibit

The 67-pound male white shark in Monterey Bay Aquarium, captured incidentally three weeks ago by commercial fishermen off Ventura, is the third to occupy the facility’s Outer Bay exhibit.

The first was held for 198 days and viewed by more than 1 million visitors. The second was kept 137 days.

Both were tagged and tracked after their release.

Besides using a captive specimen to deliver a conservation message, the aquarium since 2001 has spent more than $1 million toward extensive tagging studies.

Keeping score

Last summer, the albacore count for the “Big Three” sportfishing landings in San Diego was a paltry 6,714.

The current tally is 31,624 and climbing.

Some 1 1/2 -day trips this week produced catches of 100-plus albacore, with fish weighing 20-40 pounds. It shows how much conditions can change from one year to the next.

Last summer, warm water drove the longfin tuna away long before August. They were replaced by yellowtail (54,856 caught), dorado (19,979) and yellowfin tuna (11,778).

Through Wednesday only 4,137 yellowtail, 761 yellowfin and 60 dorado were landed. As for albacore, fishing may be outstanding for another week or two but the fleets will not come close to the record haul of 239,801 in 2002.

Stressed-out trout

Because of the light winter snow pack, free-flowing streams in the Eastern Sierra are running dangerously low and warm, so anglers are urged not to overplay or remove trout they intend to release.

“They are far more stressed this time of year with the current conditions in some areas,” says Tom Loe of Sierra Drifters Guide Service.

These waters include the West and East Walker rivers, San Joaquin River, Lee Vining Creek, Rock Creek, Hot Creek, Mammoth Creek, McGee Creek and Convict Creek.

Doves aplenty

Prospects are good for Saturday’s dove opener, particularly in the furnace-like Blythe and Yuma areas, but also in the Imperial Valley. Monsoonal rain is not in the forecast and “there are birds everywhere,” says Richard Sprague of Sprague’s Sports & RV in Yuma.

Hunters on both sides of the Arizona-California border are invited to participate in Sprague’s two-day Big Breast contest for mourning and white-wing doves.

Hunters also can inquire about a free junior hunt, limited to 100 applicants, Sunday in a nearby private field. Details: (928) 726-0022.

Get on board

More than 80 tons of snow will be delivered to Huntington Beach Pier this weekend for Boardfest ’07, a girls-themed extravaganza featuring surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding competitions, clinics and exhibits.

Athletes include surfers Courtney Conlogue, Erica Hosseini and Holly Beck; snowboarders Chanelle Sladics, Heidi Kreis and Laurie Currier, and skateboarder Holly Lyons.

Aside from a surf contest, a new “triple-threat” element will pit contestants in all disciplines.

Hours are 9-5 Saturday through Monday. Admission is free.

pete.thomas@latimes.com


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