With this year’s installment of Fiesta securely in our rearview mirror, what better time to look back at arguably the most famous fish tacos ever sold during our city’s annual Old Spanish Days celebration? During Fiesta 2007, Santa Barbara Fish Market’s booth at De la Guerra Plaza fast became the culinary buzz of the party, serving up delicious shark tacos. And not just any shark, but a record-setting 907-pound Mako shark, caught just off shore of world-famous surfing spot Rincon Point a day before the start of Fiesta. (Anyone who doubts the presence of sharks in the lineup at Rincon should rent Bruce Brown’s 1961 film, Surfing Hollow Days, and behold a 15-foot behemoth patrolling the waves.)
Netted by Mike Ettinger and his crew aboard the commercial fishing vessel the Mary Beth, the short-finned Mako, accidentally caught while hunting for more traditional taco fare (white sea bass), caused quite a stir when it landed at the Santa Barbara Harbor-the shark’s toothy and terrifying grin a spectacle many won’t soon forget.
Despite its delicious legacy, the booth did stir up some controversy. “Some people think sharks shouldn’t be fished,” said S.B. Fish Market owner and manager Brian Colgate. Others, specifically surfers, worried about potential bad karma-and perhaps some biting fallout-from eating the shark. Nevertheless, even with several other local fish options on the menu, the largest demand was for the beast and when the smoke cleared, the Mako was responsible for more than 2,000 tacos sold.