Cephaloscyllium Ventriosum



Coral Reefs, Nearshore, Continental Shelf, Kelp Forests

10 - 22 pounds

32" - 43"

Swell Shark

Also Known As: Puffer Shark, Pacman Shark

Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) Fish Description

The Swell Shark is a member of the catshark species (these are ground-dwelling sharks). They have broad heads and large gold eyes. They’re yellow-brown in color with white spots all over its body. They like to reside in algae-covered crevices, kelp-beds, or coral reefs where they can blend with their surroundings. It thrives in warm subtropic waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Their gills are small and so are their tightly packed teeth, but they can open their mouths wide.

Swell Sharks are nocturnal ambush predators that prey on small unsuspecting fishes, crustaceans; shrimps and crabs, and invertebrates such as squid. They also feed on fish carcasses that sunk to the bottom of the ocean.


Interesting Facts about the Swell Shark

  • Swell sharks are sociable fishes, they can be seen sleeping next to or on top of other sharks, such as the Horn Shark.  
  • Swell sharks are oviparous (egg-laying), they lay two of their eggs called mermaid pouches attached to rocks, corals, or vegetation.
  • When disturbed, the swell shark expands to approximately double its regular size by swallowing water and bites its tail to prevent the predator from pulling it out of its nest. When anglers catch a swell shark and throw them back to the water, they cant sink immediately because of the air they inhaled during swelling.


Size and Speed of the Swell Shark

The swell shark is pretty small. Its max length caught is 43 inches but the average size is about 35 inches. As of now, there are no records of its weight (maybe you might be the first to submit if you catch one).

It takes 7-10 months for the mermaid pouches to hatch the pups. When swell sharks hatch, they’re only about 5 inches long but they are already self-sufficient.


Distribution and Habitat of the Swell Shark

Swell sharks in the US are primarily found in the eastern Pacific; their range is from the coasts of California down to southern Mexico living in the continental shelves, slopes, kelp forests, or coral reefs. They live in shallow depths of 16 feet but can be seen as deep as 1,500 feet, but their common area is 16 feet to 121 feet. 

These fishes are benthic and epibenthic, meaning, they dwell in the bottom or just a bit above the bottom of the ocean bed. So if you want to catch swell sharks, best to use gears that would help you fish in the seabed.


Fishing for Swell Sharks

Swell Sharks are elusive fish and there are no commercial fish for them yet (especially their meat is of bad quality) and sometimes anglers accidentally catch them when they intend to catch bigger game fishes. It’s far from being a game fish that is sought after but they are a pretty interesting sight to see when they swell up. 

Anglers have caught swell sharks by the pier, boats in shallow areas, and by the beach. The best time to catch a swell shark is at night when they are actively feeding. Since they’re bottom-dwelling sharks, make sure you use some sinkers to keep your line at the bottom, a 3-5 ounce sinker will do for shallow waters. They’re not known for being a fighter when caught but they will try to hide under the pylons of the piers or crevices when caught. 

A small fish like the swell shark is definitely suitable for fly fishing. A 6-9 foot rod with a 10-20 lb line is enough, and a 5/0 hook for their big mouths. Make sure that your lure is always in contact at the bottom, you can do this by keeping your rod pointed straight down and wait for the fish to take the bait.

Recommended baits are shrimps, chunks of fish, squids. Use lures that are intended for the bottom, like darter jigs and bomber lures. It’s pretty to do but fun, enjoy your swell shark fly fishing.