DANA POINT — Chris Pica was in a lobster skiff in 8 feet of water just off Beach Road watching 10 great whites glide through the surfline.
The 53-year-old, a longtime boat captain and member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Orange County whale disentanglement team, was enjoying his day off.
He had missed recent shark sightings off Capistrano Beach, so after getting a bite at Wind and Sea Restaurant in Dana Point Harbor on May 19, he and three friends hopped onto the skiff to see what they could find half a mile outside the harbor. In 20 minutes they were surrounded by the great whites.
“We were right in the lineup and all of a sudden, there was this big dark figure in the surf,” Pica recalled Wednesday. “I saw a round black buoy with a little light on it. In a split second the wave broke on the shark and he was in white water.”
As Pica watched the 7-footer tumble, his mind flashed back to a year ago when he and another boat captain sighted a great white entangled in fishing gear off San Clemente pier, he said. This shark looked to have the same gear on it.
“I was like, oh my God, that’s the same shark,” Pica said. “It was just two feet from me.”
A hook was set in its mouth connected to a steel cable, he said. The fishing line trailing from the cable was partially wrapped around a pectoral fin and part of its body. Trailing behind was a massive wad of mono-filament fishing line, three stainless steel leaders and the black float.
In a split second, Pica’s instinct from…