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Surf Fishing For Sharks In Florida

Shark Identification Features

Fishing for sharks has become more popular recently. If you want to fish for sharks in Florida there’s three things to learn in order to stay within the law.

  • Some shark species are protected and must be released if caught. It is unlawful to harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell or exchange prohibited shark species.
  • There are 4 sharks that you are allowed to keep 1 per day as long as they meet the minimum size limit.
  • There are 6 sharks that have no minimum size limit. However there is a bag limit of two fish or 100 pounds per person, per day -whichever is more.  If you harvest two fish that have a combined weight of 150 pounds, that is your limit for that species.

Sharks Commonly Found In Florida

Florida’s shark population is diverse and includes species that range in size from only a few feet to more than 40 feet in total length. Experts caution sea-goers to beware of sharks 6 feet or longer due to the damage they can cause in a single bite. Among the species that grow to this size and have been known to attack humans are bull sharks, tiger sharks and great white sharks. However, these are not the predominant shark species that a person is likely to come across in Florida waters. The following species are among the most common.

  • Blacktip Shark – No size limit
  • Spinner Shark – Size limit 54″
  • Sandbar Shark – Prohibited
  • Blacknose Shark – No size limit
  • Nurse Shark – Size limit 54″
  • Lemon Shark – Prohibited
  • Sharpnose Shark – No size limit
  • Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – Prohibited
  • Bonnethead Shark – No size limit

4 Sharks You Are Allowed To Keep With A Size Limit

You are allowed to keep 1 of these sharks. The minimum size limit is 54 inches measured from the nose to the fork in the tail.

Five Sharks You Can Keep

Identification Of Sharks With A Size Limit

Bull Shark

Bull Shark

Bull sharks commonly enter estuarine waters and is one of the few shark species that may inhabit freshwater, sometimes venturing hundreds of miles inland via coastal river systems. Maximum size about 11 feet. Matures at approximately 14-18 years of age (about 6.5 feet) and is estimated to live 24+ years. One of the more dangerous shark species, accounting for the third highest number of attacks on humans. Feeds on variety of bony fishes and invertebrate species, sharks, rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and sea birds.

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark

Nurse sharks  are one of the few sharks that can be found lying on the bottom. It sometimes hides under ledges and wrecks. They can grow to 14 feet in length, but most often range from 6-9 feet and weigh an average of 300 pounds. The nurse shark is considered a nuisance species in most North American long line fisheries with fins and meat of little value. Though relatively slow and sluggish, it can be dangerous to humans if aggravated. Their diet consists primarily of crustaceans, molluscs, tunicates, sea snakes, and other fish, particularly stingrays. Their average life span is 25 years.

Common Thresher

Common Thresher Shark

Common Thresher Shark reaching 16 ft long and 510 lb in weight. The confirmed length record for this shark is 19 ft. They are known to live to at least 15 years of age and their maximum lifespan has been estimated to be 45–50 years. 97% of the common thresher’s diet is composed of bony fishes, mostly small schooling forage fish such as mackerel, bluefish, herring, needlefish, and lanternfish.

Spinner

Spinner Shark

Spinner Sharks are a large and slender, fast-swimming shark that often leaps “spinning” out of the water. It feeds primarily on fishes like sardines and herrings but also on small sharks and rays. It is often mistaken for the blacktip shark, but distinguished by the dark tip on its anal fin. It grows to an
average of about 6 feet in length.


 

6 Sharks You Are Allowed To Keep That Have No Minimum Size Limit

However, there is a bag limit of two fish or 100 pounds per person, per day -whichever is more.  If you harvest two fish that have a combined weight of 150 pounds, that is your limit for that species.

Sharks With No Size Limit1

Identification Of Sharks With No Size Limit

Blacktip Shark

Blacktip Shark

Blacktips are principally pelagic but often come inshore in large schools, particularly in association with Spanish mackerel. Frequently it is the most common shark (especially young) in clear water cuts and along beaches in Florida and the Bahamas. The blacktip is a valuable commercial species with marketable flesh, hide, fins, and liver. It is one of the most commonly collected sharks in the commercial fishery, but is also fished for sport on light tackle and often leaps out of the water when hooked. The blacktip is thought to be the culprit in most “hit and run” attacks on humans. It can grow to 8 feet in length. This species is a relatively fast growing shark, reaching maturity at about 4-5 years of age and living longer than 10 years.

Finetooth Shark

Finetooth Shark

Finetooth Sharks are coastal species that reside in waters close to shore to depths of 32.8 feet. Adults and juveniles are common in shallow coastal waters off South Carolina during the warm summer months and migrate south when surface water temperatures drop below 68°F (20°C). The population of finetooth sharks spend the winter months in the waters off the coast of Florida. Maximum reported size of the finetooth shark is 6.2 feet. Average lengths for male individuals is 5.2 feet while females average about 5.4 feet. Males reach maturity at about 3.9 feet in length and females mature at about 4.6 feet. The finetooth shark feeds on small bony fishes, including mullet, Spanish mackerel, spot, and menhaden. This shark also preys on marine invertebrates including cephalopods and crustaceans. The maximum lifespan has been estimated to be at least 9 years for males and 14 years for females.

Smooth Dogfish Shark

Smooth Dogfish Shark

The smooth dogfish has a long narrow body. The smooth dogfish migrates seasonally, moving north in the spring and south in the autumn. It is primarily a nocturnal species.  They mature sexually at about 3 feet, most of the mature females with young are between about 3 feet and 4 feet long; and a few grow to a length of about 5 feet.  Feeds on crabs, lobster. mollusks, small shrimp, worms. Primarily a shore fish and a bottom swimmer, commonly entering shoal harbors and bays, and even coming into fresh water. Feeds on chiefly crustaceans, lobster large crabs and smaller fishes. Smooth dogfish reach maximum size at seven to eight years of age. Females live to 16 years of age and males have a life span of 10 years.

Sharpnose Shark

Sharpnose Shark

Sharpnose Shark is an inshore species, common in bays and estuaries. This small species, 2 to 4 feet long, is characterized by a long and flattened snout, slender body, a brown to olive-gray body color with a white underside, and distinctive small white spots on its back. Feeds mostly on bony fish, worms, shrimp, crabs, mollusks, menhaden, eels, silversides, wrasses, jacks, toadfish, and filefish. Along with the bonnethead, it is the most common shark caught by Florida anglers. There has been reports of these sharks living up to 10–12 years..

Blacknose Shark

Blacknose Shark

Blacknose Shark is a small shark commonly found in Florida bays and lagoons over sandy, shell and coral bottoms. It has a very noticeable dusky smudge or “mustache” on the tip of its snout, which is more prominent when young. Feeds primarily on small, bony fishes, including pinfish, croakers, porgies, anchovies, spiny box fish, and porcupine fish, as well as on octopus and other cephalopod. Its color ranges from a pale olive-gray above to whitish below. Its maximum length is about 5 feet. The maximum lifespan is estimated to be 19 years.

Bonnethead Shark

Bonnethead Shark

Bonnethead Shark is the smallest of the hammerhead family, commonly 3 to 4 feet in length. It is abundant in near shore Florida waters. Gray or grayish-brown in color, the bonnethead has a broadly widened head in the shape of a shovel. It feeds chiefly on crabs and other crustaceans. Their feeding behavior involves swimming across the seafloor, moving its head in arc patterns like a metal detector, looking for minute electromagnetic disturbances produced by crabs and other creatures hiding in the sediment. It is a good sport fish. The life span of bonnethead sharks is believed to be about 12 years.

2 Responses to Surf Fishing For Sharks In Florida

  • 02.10.15
    Hi Randy
    Hats Off to U. Nobody will take this kind of initiative, time & trouble to teach essential norms to the anglers all over the word (it may differ place to place). Entire article is marvelous & impeccable with such a clean & simple diagrams & notes that even the new born baby will understand in no time. Damn good work Randy. we are all grateful to you.

    I still haven’t started fishing after the Braid line cut my Index finger (almost chopped my front end of the finger off). Due to my old age it’s taking quite a long time to heal.

    Shark fishing in my part of India is a forgone conclusion. Any way I really enjoyed Ur fantastic work. Have a Nice Day

  • Great article on sharks. I’ve caught a few bonnetheads near Cocoa Beach
    only to release them again. Great fun.