Florida's Shark Fisheries

Photo by Austin Gallagher

Florida remains one of the best locations in North America to interact with many species of sharks. Anglers therefore have a responsibility to ensure they are conservation-minded in their fishing activities.

People have been interacting with sharks in Florida for decades. Interest in fishing for these predators dates back to before the 1900s. Interest increased during the 1950s to 1970s as anglers would commonly encounter sharks while targeting other species, or have their fish lost to sharks.

From 'Catch and Kill' to Conservation

Photo by Austin Gallagher

Anglers soon realized the thrill and excitement of hooking and catching sharks, which were more abundant at the time when compared to today. In the wake of the 1975 blockbuster movie "Jaws," sharks were suddenly cast in a negative light and people were galvanized to seek and destroy sharks. At this point the primary mentality of recreational shark fishermen in Florida and the greater United States was to "catch and kill."

Shark fishing tournaments increased in popularity and prevalence, with the greatest awards and honors bestowed on those who killed the largest sharks. This trend continued throughout the 1980s until the mid-1990s when a conservation ethic began spreading, which included a shift toward catch-and-release shark fishing.

Today sharks are recognized as a significantly valuable economic resource through catch-and-release recreational fishing in the state of Florida, where a shark is more valuable to catch again another day.

Charter boat captains offer shark fishing trips year-round in Florida. Several different species may be targeted, depending on the season and weather conditions.

Why sharks call Florida home

Florida Sea Grant Stock Photo

Populations of sharks in the state have historically been abundant due to the variety of marine habitats such as reefs, estuaries, mangroves, the open shelf and the over one-thousand miles of coastline across the state.

Sharks use these habitats throughout their lives for feeding, mating, pupping and migrating. The Atlantic coast boasts a wide variety of species that inhabit both in-shore and offshore systems. Migratory species using the Gulf Stream utilize the warmer waters off Florida for feeding. The Gulf of Mexico is an area of strong shark abundance, but certain species have suffered declines in both regions.

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