TOGGLE MENU

Fish Species - Sharks

Species > Sharks

If you fish in Florida you will sooner or later catch a shark! Some anglers
target sharks due to their furious fight and sheer size. Sharks are everywhere,
both inshore and offshore with some even found in freshwater rivers.

Sharks are opportunistic feeders that will eat anything they can put in their mouth. Chumming for sharks is necessary if you are targeting them and is easy when you use cut bait, whole carcases, or any bloody fresh chum mix. It is best to use chum cages for dispensers and their teeth will shred a chum bag in a second and sometimes swallow dispensers whole.

If you plan on fishing for Sharks you need to know the rules and how to ID the species you catch. In federal waters you need a permit to land a shark. These brochures detail the rules and have excellent drawings to help you ID your catch, so don't forget to print them and take them along with you on your next trip. Icon indicating document is PDFShark Identification & Federal Rules Icon indicating document is PDFKnow Your Florida Sharks letter P icon represents prohibited species=Protected (Prohibited)

Sharks of Florida

Atlantic Angel Shark
Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library - Photo taken in Gulf of Mexico

Atlantic Angel Shark (Squatina dumeril) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Atlantic Angel shark is a small species, usually 3 to 4 feet in length, and is located from Massachusetts to the Gulf Coast and has been seen in the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America. This bottom dwelling species feeds on bottom dwelling Mollusks, crustaceans, flounders, skates, and stingrays.

The Angel shark below was caught in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

 

live angel fish held by a man on a noaa ship

 

Basking shark with it's mouth wide open filter feeding as it swims
Courtesy of NOAA

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Basking Shark in the world's second largest fish and one of only three plankton-feeding shark species. They can be 40 feet long and weight 19 tons. Usually found in warm-temperate waters around the continental shelves in shallow waters as well as depths to 2,900 feet, these harmless giants sometimes appear in coastal waters. The Basking Shark is an enormous species with elongated gills that stretch almost completely around the head. While feeding these gills billow out in a way reminiscent of spinnakers, revealing the gill rakers used to filter the sea water for plankton.

 

 

 

Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark (Odontaspis noronhai) letter P icon represents prohibited species

Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark laying on concrete. It is very dark colored with white glowing eyesBig Eye sand tiger shark in the water on a long line
Picture 1 Courtesy of NOAA - Picture 2 Courtesy of http://www.dnr.sc.gov/ - Caught on a longline off Cape Canaveral

The Bigeye Sand Tiger shark is extremely rare with only around 15 specimens ever been captured. They have been found in waters between 200 to 3,300 feet and have been found at about 5 feet long. The Bigeye Sand Tiger is similar in appearance to the better-known sand tiger shark. This species is dark chocolate brown to reddish brown in color and the eyes are relatively large and orange in color. If you ever catch this shark, take pictures, put it back into the water, and report it to wildlife authorities.

 

Bigeye Sixgill shark in the water, it's eyes glowing white with his mouth open
http://www6.miami.edu/sharklab/images/large/sixgill.jpg

Bigeyed Sixgill Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Hexanchus nakamurai)

The rarely seen Bigeye Sixgill Shark is a small species, with a maximum reported size just under 6 feet and weighting about 44 lbs. The Bigeye is primarily a deepwater species, inhabiting continental shelves at depths of 295 to 1,970 feet.

 

 

 

 

shinny, wet bignose shark on a plastic sheet
Courtesy of NOAA

Bignose Shark (Carcharhinus altimus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Bignose shark is commonly found in very deep near the edge of the continental shelf in tropical and subtropical waters. The Bignose can be 9 feet long and weigh 370 pounds. They feed on bony fish such as lizardfishes, croakers, soles, batfishes, dogfishes, catsharks, and stingrays.

 

 

blacknoe shark laying on edge of water
Courtesy of NOAA

Blacknose Shark (Carcharhinus acronotus)

The Blacknose Shark is common in the tropical and subtropical waters generally inhabiting coastal seagrass, sand, or rubble habitats, with adults preferring deeper water. A small (averaging 4 feet), fast-swimming predator, the Blacknose shark feeds primarily on small bony fishes, including pinfish, croakers, porgies, anchovies, spiny boxfish, octopus, and porcupine fish.

 

Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

Blacktip shark just caught held by a man on a boat

The Black Tip Shark is often near shore around river mouths, bays, beaches, and estuaries. Known as one of the best tasting sharks, the black tip's meat is pinkish in color and sweet in flavor. Blacktip shark being release into the surf

 

 

The Black Tip reef shark mostly eats reef fish, often preying on sturgeon fishes and mullet. It hunts in small groups during the day. The Black Tip is not very aggressive but can be slightly dangerous to divers and waders if provoked.

Fillets of Blacktip are excellent grilled. A 4 foot Blacktip fillet will look like a very long pork tenderloin. Be sure to remove all dark red meat leaving you will a clean white fillet then soak the meat in milk for 5 minutes, marinate in your favorite recipe for 5 minutes to 24 hours (soy sauce, garlic, grated ginger is great) and grill like a steak, don't overcook. We think Blacktip is better than Cobia, it is soft, sweet white meat. Image to the right courtesy of MBARA.

image showing difference between blacktip shark and spinner shark - the blacktip does not have coloring on it's lower anal fin

 

Spinner Shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)

Spinnner Shark in the water
Photo Courtesy of MBARA

The Spinner is a larger version of the Blacktip Shark and often misidentified as such. The difference between these two Sharks is the distinct black color on the tip of the rear bottom anal fin, the Spinner has it, the Blacktip does not. The Spinner averages 6 feet and 120 pounds but can reach 10 feet in length. They get their name from their feeding habit of swimming vertically and "spinning" as they swiftly engulf their prey. The Spinner inhabits water depth from 100 to 300 feet both inshore and offshore, sometimes forming large schools. Commercial fisherman have sought this Shark species for its meat, fins, liver oil, and skin thus the species is now considered vulnerable and might be protected in the future.

 

Bonnethead Shark caught on fishing line on a boat
Courtesy of FWC - Caught in Panama City, notice the bait fish on the hook

Bonnethead Shark (Sphyrna tiburo)

The Bonnethead Shark is commonly found over flats and are often confused with Hammerhead Sharks. This is a small shark averaging under 4 feet. It eats a variety of insure delights like crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. The Bonnethead is a timid shark and harmless to people.

See Hammerhead shark section for a comparison on heads to ID this fish.

 

 

 

Bull shark in the water with it's mouth openBull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)

The Bull Shark lives in the warmer climates inshore around river mouths and can adapt to life in freshwater. Bulls are common at over 7 feet and over 200 pounds and are not hard to miss inshore due to their size. The Bull Shark is an aggressive feeder of fish, other sharks, stingrays, turtles, birds, mollusks, crustaceans, and dolphins. The bull shark is one of the most frequent attackers of people as it swims in very shallow waters where people swim.

Image Courtesy of NOAA NMFS

 

 

 

Caribbean Reef shark swimming on a reef
Credit: Brian Gratwicke Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Caribbean Reef Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Carcharhinus perezi)

The Caribbean Reef Shark is a common species is found in the tropical waters and can grow to 10 feet. It prefers shallow waters around coral reefs, and is commonly found near the drop-offs, and is sometimes seen resting motionless on the sea floor or inside caves. This shark feeds on a wide variety of reef-dwelling bony fishes as well as stingrays and is attracted to low-frequency sounds, which are indicative of struggling fish.

caribbean reef shark

 

Caribbean Sharp Nose drawing
Courtesy of NOAA

Caribbean Sharpnose Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Rhizoprionodon porosus)

The Caribbean sharpnose is a small shark only reaching lengths of 3 feet. The Carribean sharpnose resides close inshore, primarily in tropical bays and estuaries with occasional forays into freshwater rivers. It is also reported to live in offshore waters to depths of 1,600 feet, although more commonly in depths less than 300 feet. This shark feeds on small bony fishes, including wrasses, as well as snails, squid, and shrimp.

 

smooth dogfish shark on a dock
Courtesy of NOAA

Smooth Dogfish Shark - Dusky Smooth-Hound (Mustelus canis)

The smooth dogfish shark is small, only reaching 60 inches and weighing 27 pounds. The smooth dogfish shark commonly lives in bays and inshore waters, preferring waters less than 60 feet deep. The smooth dogfish is a migratory species that moves north and south with the seasons. This shark is a scavenger and opportunistic feeder, but regularly feeds upon crabs, lobster and shrimp.

live smooth dogfish shark

 

spiny dogfish in water
Courtesy of NOAA

Spiny Dogfish Shark - Mud Shark
(Squalus acanthias)

The Spiny Dogfish Shark is found mostly in shallow waters and further offshore in most parts of the world, especially in temperate waters. The Spiny Dogfish was once abundant but is now on the endangered list due to overfishing for food. If captured, the shark can arch its back to pierce its captor with one of it's mildly poisonous spines. Their diet is comprised of small fishes such as capelin, cod, haddock, hake, herring, menhaden and ratfish, but they eat krill, crabs, polychaete worms, jellyfish, ctenophores, amphipods, squid and octopus.

 

Dusky Shark laying next to a large knife
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Dusky Shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Dusky Shark lives in tropical and warm-temperate waters from the coast to the outer continental shelf. This large shark can grow to 14 feet and weigh 750 pounds. Dusky Sharks are one of the slowest-growing and latest-maturing sharks, not reaching adulthood until around 20 years of age. This shark feeds on bony fishes, sharks and rays, cephalopods, and occasionally crustaceans, sea stars, bryozoans, sea turtles, marine mammals, carrion, and garbage. The Dusky Shark has been a Species of Concern since 1997 and fishing is prohibited.

dusky shark face showing shark teeth

 

finetooth shark next to a large ruler with a tag in it
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Finetooth Shark (Carcharhinus isodon)

The Finetooth Shark forms large schools in shallow, coastal waters and migrates seasonally following warm water. This common shark is often found near beaches, in bays and estuaries. This relatively small, slender-bodied shark reaches lengths of about 6 feet. The Finetooth prefers Atlantic menhaden, will occasionally dine on spot croaker, Spanish mackerel, mullet, and shrimp.

 

Galapagos Shark in the water
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Galapagos Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Carcharhinus galapagensis)

Galapagos Sharks are active predators averaging 12 feet in length and often encountered in large groups. The are usually found near clear reef environments around oceanic islands and the edge of continental shelves. They feed mainly on bottom-dwelling bony fishes, other sharks, marine iguanas, sea lions, and even garbage. This species is especially dangerous to humans especially divers.

 

 

The face of the hammerhead shark underwater
 

Hammerhead Sharks letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Great, Smooth & Scalloped)

Hammerhead Sharks inhabit shallow, calm coastal waters of bays and harbors; where you find one, you will find many. Stingrays are thought to be their favored food. The Hammerhead Shark is a fierce predator with a good sense of smell to locate his prey of fish, rays, other sharks, squid, octopuses, and crustaceans. The great hammerhead has been known to be cannibalistic. Many of the hammerheads are harmless to people, but a few species, like the Great Hammerhead, can be very dangerous.

Fishing in the sandbars south of Cape Romano in Southwest Florida are shark breeding grounds with lots of Hammerhead's. The last time we fished in these waters every cast brought in a small Hammerhead (we did not want to catch a big one).

 

Drawings of Hammerhead shark types and bonnethead shark

hammerhead shark swimming in the water

closepup of the fade of a scalloped hammerhead

 

Lemon shark in the water near a reef
Photo Courtesy of NOAA NEFSC

Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris) letter P icon represents prohibited species

Lemon sharks are found most often inshore and are common on southern wrecks and ledges. The lemon shark lives near the surface and at moderate depths, frequenting bays, docks, and river mouths venturing sometimes into freshwater. The lemon averages around 9 feet and 200 pounds but can grow to 11 feet. Lemons eat mostly fish but will also dine on mollusks and crustaceans. Lemon sharks have been known to attack people.

 

leopard shark in the water with a tag on it showing beautiful tiger pattern in shades of gray on a light background
Photo Courtesy of NOAA SWFSC

Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata)

The Leopard Shark inhabits inshore sand flats and rocky areas, often in schools with smoothhound sharks. Their diet includes crabs, shrimp, octopi, worms, clam siphons, and fish such as midshipmen, sanddabs, shiner perch, bat rays, smoothhounds, and a variety of fish eggs. As a small shark only getting to 6 1/2 feet, is less aggressive than most sharks, and is not considered dangerous.

 

longfin mako out of water showing shinny skin
Courtesy of NOAA

Longfin Mako Shark (Isurus paucus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The uncommon Longfin Mako is found in temperate and tropical water at depths of 350 to 700 feet. It grows to an average of 150 lbs and 8 feet. The largest reported longfin mako was a 14 feet long female caught off Pompano Beach, Florida, in February 1984. This predator feeds on small schooling bony fishes and cephalopods.

 

 

Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)

Shortfin Mako Sharkback of Shortfin Mako Sharkface of Shortfin Mako SharkFace of Shortfin Mako Shark

The Shortfin Mako Shark is a very good food fish, the result of which has caused a decline in their population. The Mako can grow to 1,000 lbs. and up to 13 feet in length and are the most popular for anglers. Mako can be found in all types of waters but prefer cooler water so they are usually caught in deep offshore Florida waters, especially on the Atlantic side of the state. Makos eat schooling fish, including tuna, herring, mackerel, swordfish, and porpoise. The Mako Shark is dangerous and has attacked humans. The above Mako was caught 7/27/2012 in 90 feet of water 2 miles off of Fort Lauderdale using Bonito for bait. Several Mako were caught that day giving testament to how many are in the south Atlantic waters.

 

narrowtooth shark on the beach with angler holding up tail
 

Narrowtooth Shark (Copper Shark) letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Carcharhinus brachyurus)

The Narrowtooth Shark can be found from brackish rivers and estuaries, to shallow bays and harbors, to offshore waters 300 feet deep or more. This shark averages 11 feet and is a fast-swimming predator that often hunts in large groups. The Narrowtooth feeds on squid, cuttlefishes, octopus, gurnards, flatfishes, hakes, catfishes, jacks, Australian salmon, mullets, sea breams, smelts, tunas, sardines, anchovies, dogfish sharks, stingrays, skates, electric rays, and sawfishes. The Narrowtooth is especially dangerous to humans and has been responsible for a number of non-fatal attacks, particularly on spear fishers and bathers.

 

 

 

2 night sharks on tarp
Courtesy of NOAA

Night Shark (Carcharhinus signatus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The 6 foot Night Shark is found in temperate and tropical waters near the outer continental shelf and upper continental slope at depths of 160 to 2,000 feet. It spends it's day in deeper water and moving into shallower waters at night. Night Sharks are schooling predators that are nocturnally active, feeding mainly on small bony fishes and squid.

 

 

 

nurse shark faceNurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

The Nurse Shark is a sluggish bottom-dwelling shark which inhabits tropical and subtropical near shore waters.Nurse sharks can grow to 11 feet in length and live 35 years. Worlwide, they have never hurt a human to this day!

The Nurse Shark is very common and often seen lying motionless on the bottom in coral reefs, rocks, and mangrove islands. This shark feeds on bottom invertebrates such as spiny lobsters, shrimps, crabs, sea urchins, squid, octopi, marine molluscs, and fish species, especially grunts. To see a Nurse Shark filleted, check out our How to Fillet a 200 lb Shark page.

Nurse shark sitting on the bottom
Photo Courtesy of MBARA, picture taken off Mexico Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sandbar shark in a netSandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The sandbar shark travels in schools and is one of the biggest coastal sharks in the world. They are found in tropical to temperate waters over muddy or sandy bottoms in shallow coastal waters such as bays, estuaries, harbors, or the mouths of rivers. This shark preys on fish, rays, and crabs.

"Sandbars are often mistaken for bull sharks. Sandbars have a ridge of skin (inter dorsal ridge) that goes between the first and second dorsal fin that bull sharks do not have", says Carol Cox of MBARA.

Nurse shark sitting on the bottom
Photo Courtesy of MBARA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

inside the mouth of a sandbar shark

 

sand tiger shark in the water showing fat belly, dark tipped fins, spots and long tail fin
Photo courtesy of NEFSC/NOAA

Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

Usually caught accidentally by surf casters fishing for other fish, the Sand Tiger Shark is sluggish and offer little resistance when hooked. They are a solitary species, often seen around reefs and close to land, but do inhabit offshore waters. They can grow to 20 feet and will eat fish, turtles, crabs, clams, mammals, sea birds, reptiles, and other sharks. The Tiger Shark does occasionally attack people and is greatly feared, but people are not sought out by this shark.

 

Source NOAA

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
(Rhizoprionodon terraenovae)

The sharpnose shark is a small species with a long, flattened snout commonly encountered at 2 to 4 feet in length. The sharpnose lives inshore in bays and estuaries with adults sometimes found offshore. This is one of the most common sharks caught in Florida and is distinguished by its small white spots on its back with a white belly. Adults feed on small fish and crustaceans.

male and female underside of sharpnose shark

Sharpnose Sevengill Shark
Credit: SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble,
NOAA/NMFS/SEFSCy - Photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico

Sharpnose Sevengill Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Heptranchias perlo)

Large Sevengill Sharks are often found in offshore waters to depths of 1,870 feet but also lives in deep channels in bays. Smaller individuals reside in shallow water over continental shelves including bays and estuaries. Sevengill sharks prefer rocky bottom habitats although they commonly occur over sandy and muddy substrates. They are usually 9 feet long and around 230 pounds. They are opportunistic feeder that often hunt in packs for most anything including sharks, rays, chimaeras, and marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises, and seals. It also feeds on bony fishes including salmon, sturgeon, herring, and anchovies among others. It also consumes humans and has been know to attack unprovoked. Anglers are able to catch the sevengill shark from the shoreline due to its shallow water habitat.

Silky Shark on a table
Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library - Photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico

Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Silky Shark is an abundant shark found around the world in tropical waters. This shark is highly mobile and migratory and is most often found over the edge of the continental shelf down to a depth of 164 feet The Silky Shark has a slender, streamlined body and grows to a length of 8 feet. This shark is a persistent hunter feeding on bony fishes, preferring tuna.

silky shark on a net

 

Six-gill Shark swimming in Gulf of Mexico
Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library - Photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico

Six-gill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Sixgill Shark is a common shark about 16 feet long with six rows of saw-like teeth in the side of the jaws. They are found worldwide in cold temperate to tropical seas. They are deepwater sharks, usually found offshore near the bottom to depths of over 5,900 feet. They occasionally occur inshore, especially along rocky coasts or near islands, at depths of 80-160 feet. They feed on a wide range of bony fish and other large marine prey including other sharks, mammals, chimeras and rays, squid, octopus, crabs, shrimps and even seals. They also scavenge on carrion.

 

 

 

 

2 Small tail sharks
 

Smalltail Shark (Carcharhinus porosus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The Smalltail Shark can be found in waters over continental shelves, and prefers muddy bottoms in estuarine habitats. It swims along the bottom to depths of 118 feet. This is a small shark averaging between 3 to 4 feet in length. The Smalltail Shark is an opportunistic predator, feeding primarily on small fishes including sea catfish, croakers, jacks, grunts, young hammerhead and sharpnose sharks. They eat crabs and shrimps.

 

 

 

Bigeye Thresher shark laying on concrete with very big eyes and long wide fins
Courtesy of NOAA

Bigeye Thresher Shark letter P icon represents prohibited species
(Alopias superciliosus)

The Bigeye Thresher Shark averages 16 feet in length, half of which is his long tail fin, and they average 365 pounds. They inhabit depths of up to 1,600 feet and come to the surface to feed at night on mackerel, herring, hake, whiting, lancetfish, small billfish and squid.

 

 

Thresher fish on pavement with a little blood coming from it
Courtesy of NOAA

Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus)

The thresher shark is a very large shark growing to 20 feet in length, half of which is its caudal fin. The common thresher is not very dangerous to human as it has a timid disposition, small teeth and is generally found in deep, offshore waters. In Florida this fish is not encountered often as it migrates to northern waters during the summer months. Usually found at the surface this species has been encountered in 1800 feet of water offshore. If caught it will give a great fight as it leaps high out of the water.

 

live tiger shark on dock with ruler under it
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The tiger shark is a large species growing as long as 16 feet, weigh 1,500 pounds, and is the second most dangerous shark to humans, although attacks are rare. This species is threatened due to the world wide harvest of their fins. Tiger sharks inhabit coastal waters and have an incredible sense of smell. This species feeds on fish, crustaceans, dolphins, sea birds, squids, turtles or anything else that comes along. Juveniles show dark stripes and spots which disappear as they grow older.

tiger shark on a boat deck

inside the mouth of a tiger shark

 

whale shark swimming in the water
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) letter P icon represents prohibited species

The largest fish in the sea, the Whale Shark, is very docile, even playful towards humans, and can grow to over 40 feet and weigh 79,000 pounds. This shark is found in tropical and warm oceans, lives in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years. This filter feeder can open it's mouth to almost 5 feet and consumes plankton, macro-algae, krill, small squid, and any small fish that happen to get trapped in their large mouths. The Whale Shark is currently listed as a vulnerable species. Visit our Whale Shark page and learn all about this gentle giant.

 

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) letter P icon represents prohibited species

great white shark on a table with a tape measure showing it's 6 feet long with a big fat bellyGreat White Shark

The White Shark, or commonly referred to as the Great White Shark, can be found in coastal waters up to 75 degrees around the world. These large predatory fish can grow up to 20 feet and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. White Sharks feed on fish, rays, other sharks, harbor seal, sea lions, elephant seals, small toothed whales, sea turtles, sea otters, and scavenging on large animal carcasses. Although they have been know to attack humans, they do not eat them. Images Courtesy of NOAA

Did You Know?

Shark populations are down 90% world wide. An 18 year old diver with a passion for sharks won 1st place in the 2012 Beneath the Waves Film Festival. This is an amazing film video taped in the Caribbean, Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ausgiZjcOE&feature=share&list=PLAB3C18574DF16D72

Jump to fishing page