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Now Through December Are Shark Months Along La Jolla Shores

Aerial photo of people snorkeling and observing leopard sharks in the shallow waters of the La Jolla shores in August 2021.
Andrew Nosal
Aerial photo of people snorkeling and observing leopard sharks in the shallow waters of the La Jolla shores in August 2021.

Each July, anyone with access to the Discovery Channel can indulge in Shark Week. But from summer through early winter, us lucky San Diegans get months of leopard sharks in the shallow waters along La Jolla Shores.

It's prime time for Casey White, a beach supervisor for the kayak tour company Everyday California.

Now Through December Are Shark Months Along La Jolla Shores
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae.

“Honestly, it’s actually really sick just to see some wildlife out here in La Jolla,” said White, who never grows tired of the reactions people have to the friendly sharks that typically show up in August and stay through the end of December.

“People are freaked out by the sharks sometimes, but other people are fascinated by them,” White said.

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Right now, pregnant leopard sharks are appearing in the hundreds thanks to an undersea canyon that during this time of year helps reduce waves, makes the water warmer and at night provides copious amounts of squid, which are a staple of the leopard shark diet.

“They are basically incubating their developing embryos, kind of like mother birds sitting on their eggs to keep them warm,” said Andrew Nosal, an environmental and ocean sciences professor at the University of San Diego.

Nosal, who has studied sharks since 2007, says the sharks have more reason to fear us than we do them.

“We need to be respectful of their space. It’s a real privilege that we have these sharks in our backyard and that we can share their company on their turf and in fact they are usually pretty skittish,” Nosal said.

There are many ways to view the sharks.

“If you like snorkeling, if you’re a good swimmer, get in the water with them, that’s probably the up close and personal way to do it,” Nosal continued, “Now is a great time to get in the water with them. The calmer the water usually the better the conditions are for snorkeling and kayaking."

Escondido resident Erik Trogden and his wife love to view the leopard sharks from their standup paddle boards. They paddle out on their boards and bring their snorkel gear to swim with the sharks.

“It’s amazing,” Trogden said. “At first, it’s a little bit scary because they’re sharks, but then you remind yourself, ok they’re docile and when you’re on the SUP board, you’re up high enough that you can look down and see through the water and it’s like the ground is moving underneath you.”

VIDEO:Leopard Sharks Are Back Along La Jolla Shores

Nosal wants the public to know that La Jolla Shores is a marine protected area, which means you legally can’t touch them.

Plus, the leopard sharks do have teeth. “If you happen to corner them or if you were to grab them and make them feel threatened, they’re going to defend themselves if they can’t get away and the only way they can do that is with their mouth," Nosal said.