Know Your Florida Keys Sharks!

Sharks of the Florida Keys

The eight species of sharks featured here are what we encounter most in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.  With the exception of the mako, all are commonly seen in the shallow bay and reef areas.  Mako Sharks are found primarily offshore in the Gulf Stream.

During your Florida Key Shark Fishing Adventure with SeaSquared Charters, you are likely to encounter lemon sharks ranging in length from 3 to 8 feet, blacktip sharks from 3 to 6 feet, bull sharks from 6 to 10 feet and nurse sharks from 3 to 7 feet.

Sharks of all manner are often a nuisance when we target snapper, grouper and various other Florida Keys species of fish.  They, too, are after a tasty dinner!

Lemon Shark

Description: Brown with a yellowish cast so the underside.  The first dorsal fin is short and not much larger than the second dorsal.  The pectorals are triangular and wide.

Size: From around 20 pounds to well over 100 pounds.  World record 405 pounds; Florida record 397 pounds.

Game Qualities: Less spectacular, but otherwise pretty much the equal of the blacktip as a light-tackle gamester.

Blacktip Shark

Description: Gray above, white below.  Tips of dorsal and pectoral fins are black, as is the lower lobe of the caudal fin.  Short snout and stout body.  Dorsal fin begins at a point above the rear portion of the pectoral fin.

Size: Common from 5-30 pounds; seldom reaches 100 pounds, but reported to 200 or more.  World record 270 pounds, 9 ounces; Florida record 152 pounds.

Game Qualities: Pound for pound, probably the scrappiest of sharks.  Wages a wild battle on light tackle, marked by long runs and frantic jumps, especially in shallow water.

Bull Shark

Description: Usually gray to light brown above, white below.  Similar to the sandbar shark but has a shorter, wider snout.  The large first dorsal fin starts above the middle of the pectoral fin, whereas in the Sandbar it starts above the front portion of the one pectoral.

Size: Commonly runs 6-8 feet and 100-200 pounds, but can exceed 10 feet and 400 pounds.  World record 636 pounds, 14 ounces; Florida record 517 pounds.

Game Qualities: A rugged fighter; usually has heft and strength on its side.

Nurse Shark

Description: Overall brown or deep rust color.  It has a very small, underslung mouth, and is our only shark with barbels at the nostrils.

Size: Most seen in shallow water are from 5 to 50 pounds, but they can grow quite large in deeper water.  World record 210 pounds.

Game Qualities: Probably the worst fighter of all the sharks.

Bonnethead Shark

Description: The bonnethead is unmistakable because of its rounded or shovel-shaped head – not squared off or only slightly rounded as in the larger hammerheads.  Color is usually a very light gray, appearing almost white in the water.

Size: Averages 2-5 pounds; occasionally tops 10 pounds.  World record 23 pounds, 11 ounces.

Game Qualities: A spunky little fighter on light gear, but not so tough as other kinds.

Hammerhead Shark

Description: Frequently identifiable by size alone.  Small ones can be distinguished from the scalloped hammerhead by the rather flat frontal edge of the head, and by the rear edge of the pelvic fin, which is curved only in the great hammerhead.

Size: Commonly runs more than 500 pounds and sometimes as much as 1,000 pounds; possibly can reach one ton.  Florida and world records 991 pounds.

Game Qualities: Monstrous size alone makes it an equally monstrous angling challenge.

Tiger Shark

Description: Easily recognized by its pattern – and often by sheer size.  Color is dark above, yellowish below.  On smaller specimens, the darker markings take the shape of spots – hence the name “leopard.”  The big ones become “tigers” as the spots grow and blend together into stripes.  The patterns, however, do vary a great deal.

Size: This is the largest shark likely to be encountered by Florida anglers.  Quite a few 1,000-pounders have been taken in the state, and the species probably grows to a ton in weight.  World record 1,780 pounds; Florida record 1,065 pounds.

Game Qualities: Not rated particularly high among sharks, but sheer size and strength make it a rugged foe.

Mako Shark

Description: The shortfin mako, shown here, is known to offshore anglers as, simply, “mako.”  The longfin mako is less often caught.  Both have a huge mouthful of bulging teeth that are long and pointed.  The makos are blue above and white below.

Size: Range is 200-600 pounds, but both species can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.  World record 1,115 pounds; Florida record 911 pounds, 12 ounces.

Game Qualities: Considered by many big-game anglers as deserving of rank among the big billfishes.

 Resource: Sport Fish of Florida, by Vic Dunaway

Rays and Sea Turtles

Close relatives of sharks, rays are often seen during Florida Keys Shark Fishing Adventures with SeaSquared Charters.  We most commonly encounter stingrays and spotted eagle rays.

Among the most graceful and amazing of the Florida Keys aquatic creatures are sea turtles, and you may be lucky enough to see a few of them while you’re Shark fishing.

The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital opened its doors in Marathon in 1986.  A variety of turtle ailments are treated at the Turtle Hospital, and the facility has successfully treated and released over 1,000 sea turtles since its founding.

No visit to Marathon would be complete without a tour of the world famous Turtle Hospital!

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Hooked On Marathon Vacation

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