What is the Largest Great White Shark Ever Recorded?

In Jaws, Quint notes that his monstrous prey is 25 feet long. Is this remotely realistic? Did Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg lie to us?

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

What is the Largest Great White Shark Ever Recorded?

Maybe it’s just me but whenever I used to swim in the ocean (I haven’t been in years, for various shark-related reasons), I would always have that moment where I would picture just how large the shark from Jaws would be, if it swam up alongside me (in the film, Quint notes that the fish is 25 feet long). Following this thought, I would naturally freeze in panic. But I would always wonder.

Was my fear and imagination justified? Did Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg lie to me? What’s the largest great white shark ever recorded?

Note: I specified “great white shark” because technically, the largest shark of any specific species would always be the whale shark which – though incredibly huge and cool-looking, with the spots – is a boring, filter-feeding sea cow whose record measurements aren’t nearly as interesting as the creature that inspired Jaws. So, yes: we’re looking for the largest predatory shark, which subsequently means the largest Great White.

Whenever delving into the information contained in a “largest [certain type of animal]” discussion, one needs to employ a healthy amount of skepticism. Think about it: if you caught a giant shark or crocodile, wouldn’t you exaggerate the actual measurements a little bit, to embellish the story for the story’s sake? Exactly. This sort of thing happens a lot.


  • A Great White caught near Cuba in 1945 was said to measure in at 21 feet, 7000 pounds; there’s even a pretty terrifying picture of it with a bunch of folks from the village. Naturally, this sort of claim drew the attention of experts. Upon further inspection, researchers estimate that the giant Cuban shark was actually about 16 feet long.
  • A Great White caught off the coast of Malta in 1987 was said to measure in at 23 feet. Further studies, however, indicate that that measurement was exaggerated.

Conversely, when it comes to record-setting fish measurements, time can sometimes turn what was once a very scientific process into a tall tale (or, in this case, “a long tail”). Because fish are comprised mostly of water, extended time spent out of water post-mortem can lead to significant shrinkage. A fisherman may catch a Great White and measure it at 20 feet long but when the shark is brought to an official source for measurement a few days later, it may only measure 17 feet (this may have happened with the aforementioned Cuban and Maltese sharks, for all we know).

According to the Discovery Channel, the world’s largest accurately measured Great White was 20 feet long, caught off Prince Edward Island in Canada in 1988 (experts believe that 20 feet is probably the maximum size for a great white). Unfortunately for fishermen hoping to set records, most Great Whites measure between 13 and 16 feet (and under 3000 pounds).

Now you know.

Justin Brown is an artist and writer living in Virginia. He channels most of his enthusiasm into making things for his online art shop, Artness! by Justin Brown. You can keep up to date with him, his worldly adventures, and his dogs by following him on Instagram and on Facebook


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  • Reply June 8, 2010


    hi guys, I think in times where sharks are gravely endangered and we realize they play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystems, you should not publish articles further deepening the wrong image of the “bad and dangerous” sharks. Would be nice if that was reflected in your article.

  • Reply June 8, 2010

    Justin Brown

    I never referred to sharks as being “bad” in this article; I will concede that there is a passing implication that they are dangerous but that’s only because (follow me, here) most sharks ARE dangerous. They are very large predatory wild animals and they have attacked/will attack human beings.

    That being said, do not confuse “dangerous” with “malevolent”; these attacks are not the result of sharks being inherently villainous or just jerks who want to make us bleed (they’re neither) but because, as mentioned, they are predatory wild animals. If a shark is hungry, if you frighten a shark, if you disturb a shark, if you intrigue a shark… there is a good chance that shark might get a little closer and interact with you in a way that you may not find pleasant. Plus, you’re in their environment, which gives a shark an extremely pronounced advantage when it comes to interacting with you and that’s a pretty dangerous situation.

    Fear and respect the shark not because it is an evil monster but because it is a wild animal. I would also recommend the same “fear and respect” approach with bears or alligators or rhinoceroses. In fact, add “cars” to that list, too (if you choose to go wander in a parking lot, you need to understand that though nobody is TRYING to run you over, there’s a very real chance it may happen anyway and you should be very careful).

    This doesn’t mean I support people needlessly killing sharks, of course. They might be predatory animals but yes, they obviously play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystems and deserve environmental protection as well as any other creature (I never implied otherwise in the article but whatever). Plus, sharks are way cool — “Shark Week” is one of the best weeks of the year.

    For the record: my aversion to swimming in the ocean is not exclusively because of sharks (they are like, #8 on the list of reasons why I prefer pools).

  • Reply June 8, 2010


    Thanks for the response, you got the right attitude 🙂 I’m just very aware of the topic now, as my girlfriend wrote her master thesis on the topic.

  • Reply December 8, 2010

    Matthew McKendrick

    That shark off P.E.I. was the shark my dad caught.. and he always claimed it was bigger then 20, but thats what they measured I guess.. The jaws are in a Miami mueseum

  • Reply December 1, 2011


    I have seen a 17 meter Great White Shark!!In SA

  • Reply February 29, 2012


    Buks I would if you are still there prove that you saw a 17 meter great white, ( note 17 meters is 51 feet the only shark in history that got that big was a Carcharadon Megalodon adults get between 50-60 feet but people say they can get even bigger) show me proof of what you saw and I will believe it.

    • Reply July 12, 2017


      Buks might of meant 17 feet. Lol! I agree with you, if he saw a great white shark at 17meters, that would mean that Megalodon is not extinct! Lol

  • Reply March 11, 2012

    dominik mj

    Point is, that it would be not much less impressive, to be attacked by a 16 feet shark or a 25 feet shark… But then, the oceans are bit and if there was not one very big white shark seen before, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

    And it is a bit misleading to talk about the Carcharadon Megalodon as this died out already before any records [and well it might died out, before any human appeared on this world]. And I am not disappointed that it died out – even sailing in medium sized boats would be not save anymore…

    • Reply August 13, 2015


      dominik mj – Not sure why you stated that “to about the Carcharadon Megalodon as this died out” in your comment. I assume you were referring to Matt’s response to Buks. You should have re-read Matt’s comment to make sure you were comprehending Matt’s remarks. It was prudent for Matt to mention Carcharadon Megalodon since Buks was claiming he had seen a 50 foot shark. Matt’s original article stated that some people exaggerate the size and type of fish they catch or see. Apparently, Buks was one of those people that like to dramatize and exaggerate as Matt referred to in his article. Matt was questioning Buks on how he could have possibly seen a 50 foot “great white shark” if the closest species of such a claim was extinct.

      By the way, many of you claiming that it is possible for a Carcharadon Megalodon to still be living in our oceans…what the heck is it eating in order to sustain its life? Seriously, think before you respond with such silly claims. There would have to be overwhelming evidence of a major fish eating massive amounts of whales and whale sharks in order to sustain itself. I don’t think the marine biologists as a large group would be able to keep such a secret from the world. Come on…Do you really think all marine biologists have a better than normal human ability to never gossip or keep secrets? Get real with yourself!

      If a marine biologist, or any other person, was on a boat watching a whale shark swim along and all of a sudden a beyond imagine huge and just as aggressive preditor fish, like the Carcharadon Megalodon, bolted up and chomped on the whale shark it would be a massive international news story for sure! Read up on Carcharadon Megalodon and you will find that it is estimated that these creatures ate around 2,500 pounds of large fish a day. At that estimate it would be hard to argue that all of our oceans would NOT be void of all fish-like creatures if one Megalodon was alive, let alone at least two alive at any given time since two or more would be needed in order to keep the species alive millions of years to be seen today. So since 1) whales, whale sharks, octopi/octopodes, and other such well-known large species of marine life still relatively co-exist in our oceans, and 2) no massive world-wide news stories have been reported of a whale shark being suddenly chomped in half and eaten by one massive creature, it is undoubtedly safe to state that there are no Megalodons still alive! So any adult who believes otherwise has to have the irrational thinking of a young child!

  • Reply April 19, 2012


    News story today says some fishermen in Mexico hauled in a 20-footer, but only around 2000 pounds.



  • Reply September 23, 2012

    Markus Negative

    Much of the movie JAWS was exaggerated, but if you remember, there are pictures in Quinn’s shop, along with all the skeleton teeth of sharks, and there’s a pic of a group of men (possibly 16) standing inside the teeth frame of a shark. Could this be from a shark larger than 20 ft?  

  • Reply October 4, 2012

    Dock Rat

    Frank Mundus is the basis for Quint.  He caught a 4,500 GW off Block Island that was easily 20ft.  www.fmundus.com

  • Reply October 10, 2012


    The picture you are referring to is probably that of an
    ancient Megalodon which is said to reach lengths of almost 100 ft, and the
    picture was taken using a model of the sharks jaw based on its tooth size, not
    an actual Megalodon.  With whites being
    caught in the 20 ft range every so often I have no problem believing the
    largest of this species is 30+ ft.

  • Reply October 18, 2012


    BLOCK ISLAND IS A MECCA FOR GREAT WHITES!! i live out there and have seen two of them not far of the south side of the island a few miles out!

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I am not sure how accurate anyones records really are, I have a friend who’s a retired Submarine Captain who gave 31 years of his life to the Navy. When asked, he would tell me very little but did hint around that there are fish,etc. swimming around way beneath the surface in the middle of the ocean somewhere that defy all records, Great Whites are one of these species.

  • Reply September 7, 2013


    love your blog, but we simply do not know what size a female GW can grow, max size I have seen is 17ft off gansbaai and that dwarfed our boat (our boat was 16ft). I reckon females get bigger in oz and the Americas. Over fishing means we simply do not know how large these beautiful creatures get.

    • Reply September 24, 2014

      sweat pea

      I watched an orca kill a 16 foot GW and eat its liver just for spite. GWs would never be able to handle an adult orca vvvvvv :):) 🙂

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    Great White Farse

    Hey guys, I’m A shark and I just wanted to point out that I’m 45ft long (shark cock not included). So all you foxy fishes get at me. Shark out.

  • Reply September 24, 2014


    the fairlawn islands are the best areas for GWs (UNTIL ORCAS SHOW UP)

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    Paul Feasal

    I know there have been reports of people seeing Whites over 20ft. The longest one that’s supposedly the longest one accurately recorded was close to 21ft. My thing is why every couple of years the lengths of sharks and snakes for records keeps on getting smaller than 20 years ago. Great Whites according to Navy marine biology are reported to get twice the length of regular biology. They where reported to get up to 40ft for great whites and Basking Sharks and 60ft for Whale Sharks. This is what I was Taught in NJROTC. The longest at the time that was caught was 23ft. I have seen the longest Anaconda drop from 36ft by the Guinness book of world records to 23ft. A year ago it was 28Ft for a Green Anaconda. There was a Reticulated python reported by Guinness book of records in the 1990’s that was 38ft. The longest Saltwater Crocodile dropped from 23ft to just over 20ft in the last 3 years. I think places are dropping the true size of these predators, because of mainly money. Most tourist would not go to a area if you have a true giant on land or in the waters. I have seen videos of scientist that study sharks that have caught and tagged 17 and 18 foot Great Whites on Video and that shark that was video taped in Mexico that made the near 18ft that was tagged by a scientist look like a minnow. That shark in Mexico was at least had close to twice the girth and it was hard to tell how much longer, but it looked to be at least a legit 20ft+

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