Sharks and Sawfish
Florida State and Federal Regulations
||Gulf State Waters
||Atlantic State Waters
|Minimum Size Limit
||54 inches fork length*
|Daily Bag Limit
||1 per harvester or 2 per vessel
*Excludes Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, blacktip, bonnethead, finetooth and smooth dogfish.
Sharks are to be landed in whole condition, this includes landing sharks with heads and tails intact
Protected (Prohibited) Species
The following species of shark (or any part of any of the following species) are prohibited from all harvest, possession, landing, purchase, sale or exchange:
- Atlantic angel (Squatina dumeril)
- Basking (Cetorhinus maximus)
- Bigeye sand tiger (Odontaspis noronhai)
- Bigeye sixgill (Hexanchus nakamurai)
- Bigeye thresher (Alopias vulpinus)
- Bignose (Carcharhinus altimus)
- Caribbean reef (Carcharhinus perezii)
- Dusky (Carcharhinus obscurus)
- Galapagos (Carcharhinus galapagensis)
- Great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)
- Lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris)
- Longfin mako (Isurus paucus)
- Narrowtooth (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
- Night (Carcharhinus signatus)
- Sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
- Sand tiger (Odontaspis taurus)
- Scalloped hammerhead (Sphryna lewini)
- Sevengill (Heptranchias perlo)
- Silky (Carcharhinus falciformis)
- Sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus)
- Smalltail (Carcharhinus porosus)
- Smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena)
- Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
- Whale (Rhincodon typus)
- White (Carcharodon carcharias)
All harvest of Largetooth Sawfish, Smalltooth Sawfish, Spiny Dogfish, Manta Ray and Spotted Eagle Ray is also prohibited.
Anglers may catch and release prohibited shark species in state waters. Anglers may also catch and take some species of shark in federal waters and land them in Florida but boats traveling through state waters carrying these species ofshark must not stop in state waters until the fish are landed.
Hook and line only. Use of natural bait when using multiple hooks is prohibited.
Catch and release methods
By using the following techniques when fishing for shark, anglers can greatly increase fish survival rates.
- Use tackle heavy enough to land a fish quickly to reduce exhaustion, which could result in its death or weaken it making it more vulnerable to predators. (Prohibited species that die while on the line after being caught in state waters should be returned to the water.)
- Release the fish while it is in the water when possible.
- Use a de-hooking device to remove hooks safely.
- Use non-stainless steel hooks - these hooks can dissolve if they remain in a fish.
- Use non-offset circle hooks when fishing with natural bait to avoid gut hooking a fish - circle hooks tend to hook fish in the jaw, making them easier to remove.
- Bend barbs down on hooks so they can be removed with less damage to a fish.
Smalltooth sawfish were once a common species found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic Ocean from Texas to North Carolina. Due to fishing and habitat loss, their population has declined by more than 95%, and today can only be commonly found in areas of south Florida.
Smalltooth sawfish were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on April 1, 2003, which makes it illegal to harm, harass or handle them in any way. It is therefore illegal to actively attempt to hook or net one, except with a permit, or in a permitted fishery. Accidental captures do occur while fishing for other species.
If a sawfish is hooked or netted it should be released immediately.
Sawfish are large powerful animals that can cause serious injury. The teeth on the rostrum are pointed and have been known to cause injury. Do not attempt to bring a sawfish close to you or your vessel.
Penalties for violating the Endangered Species Act and illegally interacting with a member of a protected species can be severe.
General Release Guidelines for Sawfish
- Do not remove the saw (rostrum) or injure the animal in any way.
- Remove as much fishing gear as safely possible
- Use extreme caution when handling and releasing sawfish as the saw can thrash violently from side to side.
- It is illegal to remove the fish’s saw (rostrum).
- Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water as much as possible.
- If it can be done safely, untangle your line if it is wrapped around the saw and try to remove the hook(s) with a long-handled dehooker if one is on board.
- If the hook cannot be removed safely, cut line as close to the hook as possible.
- If hooked internally, do NOT attempt to remove the hook, use line cutting pole or boat hook to remove as much line as possible.
If tangled in a net
- Keep the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water as much as possible.
- Cut the net removing as much of it as possible from the animal, and release the sawfish quickly.
Report Sawfish Sightings