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Regulations Update and Permit/Course

Several new regulations will go into effect July 1, 2019. The required Shark-Smart Fishing educational course and the Shore-based Shark Fishing permit are available at MyFWC.com/SharkCourse

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Regulations

Harvestable Sharks

bonnethead shark

Harvestable sharks fall into the following two groups of species:

Group 1 sharks (12 species) have no minimum size limit and include: 

  • Atlantic Sharpnose
  • Blacknose
  • Blacktip
  • Bonnethead
  • Finetooth
  • Smooth dogfish and Florida smoothounds

Group 2 sharks (8 species) have a 54 inch (fork length) minimum size limit and include:

  • Bull
  • Nurse
  • Spinner
  • Blue
  • Oceanic whitetip
  • Porbeagle
  • Shortfin mako (Jan. 1, 2020: size limit changing to 83 inches in state waters, see notice below)
  • Thresher (common)

Bag and vessel limits for Group 1 and Group 2 sharks: The daily bag limit is one shark per person per day and there is an overlapping vessel limit of two sharks. This means that the maximum number of sharks that can be retained from a vessel is two sharks even if more than two anglers are on board.

Prohibited sharks

dusky shark

Sharks that are prohibited from harvest in state waters and include:

  • 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)
  • Caribbean sharpnose shark (Rhizoprionodon porosus)
  • 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)
  • Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
  • Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
  • Whale (Rhincodon typus)
  • White (Carcharodon carcharias) 

Starting July 1: Prohibited shark species remain in the water with the gills submerged when fishing from shore or from a vessel, and prohibited shark species must be released without delay when fishing from the shore. If hook removal will delay release, cut the hook or the leader as close to the hook as possible. 

For regulations on rays, visit the Unregulated Species page. Harvest of manta ray and spotted eagle ray is prohibited. For yellow stingrays, visit the Marine Life species page.

Can I feed sharks and other fish?

Shore-based Shark Fishing

Starting July 1, 2019:

If you plan to target or keep sharks caught from shore, including structures attached to shore such as jetties, bridges and piers, you are required to pass an online educational course found at MyFWC.com/SharkCourse.

Once completed, you will be prompted to go to FWC’s online licensing system, where you will need to get the no-cost, Shore-based Shark Fishing permit (must be renewed annually). You are not required to have this permit if you are fishing for sharks from a vessel.

The permit is required for all shore-based shark anglers age 16 and older, including those 65 and older who are normally exempt from needing a fishing license.

The permit is also required if you are 16 and older and plan to fish from shore for any species of fish and will be:

  • Fishing with a metal leader more than 4 feet long,
  • Using a fighting belt/harness, or
  • Deploying bait by any means other than casting (kayaking for example) while using a hook that is 1 ½ inches or larger at the widest inside distance.

Anglers younger than 16 are not required to obtain the permit but are required to take the online educational course unless they are fishing with someone else who holds a Shore-based Shark Fishing permit.

Federal waters regulation change: Shortfin mako

In federal waters, fishermen that hold an HMS Angling or Charter/Headboat permit and fishermen that hold a Atlantic Tunas General category and Swordfish General Commercial permits when participating in a registered HMS tournament may only land a shortfin mako if the shark meets the minimum size of 71 inches fork length for males and 83 inches fork length for females.

For more, see NOAA Fisheries release

State waters regulation change: Shortfin mako

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the shortfin mako recreational minimum size limit will be increased to 83 inches fork length in state waters.

Lemon sharks aggregation

Federal HMS Permit Holders in state waters: 

Recreational anglers fishing for or harvesting sharks in state waters are not required to hold the federal HMS vessel permit. However, if you are fishing from a HMS-permitted vessel, you are must comply with the permit requirements when fishing in both state and federal waters.

All HMS Angling or Charter/Headboat permit holders that wish to recreationally fish for and/or retain sharks are required to add a Shark Endorsement to their permit. To obtain this endorsement, permit holders need to complete an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course. Additionally, all HMS permit holders are required to use non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks recreationally south of south of 41° 43’ N latitude (near Chatham, Massachusetts - the northern extent of the dusky shark’s U.S. Atlantic range), except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.

Gear Requirements

Hook and line only. Harvest prohibited by or with the use of a treble hook or any other multiple hook (any hook with two or more points and a common shaft) in conjunction with live or dead natural bait.

Starting July 1: Non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hooks are required when targeting or harvesting sharks when using live or dead natural bait (when fishing from shore and from a vessel).

Starting July 1: The possession/use of a device capable of quickly cutting the leader or hook when targeting sharks is required (when fishing from shore or a vessel).

Landing in Whole Condition Requirements

All sharks that are retained for use must remain in whole condition with heads, tails and fins attached until landed. Gilling and evisceration while on waters or in a fishing location is allowed.

Chumming

Starting July 1: Chumming is prohibited when fishing for any species from the beach.

Shark survival: why it’s important

Sharks are apex predators that play an important role in marine ecosystems. Releasing sharks in a way that increases their chance of survival is an important step toward achieving and maintaining healthy, sustainable shark populations.

  • Many species of sharks are prohibited from harvest, possession, or landing in Florida waters.
  • Starting July 1: Prohibited shark species remain in the water with the gills submerged when fishing from shore or from a vessel
  • Starting July 1: Prohibited shark species must be released without delay when fishing from the shore. 
  • Do not bring prohibited species onto a fishing vessel, a pier or bridge or onto dry land beyond the surf zone using
  • If hook removal will delay release, cut the hook or the leader as close to the hook as possible. A device capable of cutting the hook or leader such as bolt or cable cutters is required gear when fishing for sharks from shore.
  • Treat unknown catches as a prohibited species and release them.

Negative Shark Encounters

Not every encounter with a shark is intentional or wanted. Sharks have been known to take fish off the line and even bite boat motors. These negative shark interactions are an unfortunate side effect of healthy and sustainable shark populations. While it may be unfavorable, the best way to avoid negative interactions with sharks is to move to another area and away from where shark activity is occurring. 

Shark-Smart Tackle

Proper tackle is the first step in responsible catch-and-release shark fishing.

  • Use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks.
    • Less likely to hook fish in vital organs
    • Easier to remove
    • More likely to rust away
    • Required gear when fishing for sharks from shore or vessel when using live or dead natural bait
  • Flatten or file down hook barbs.
  • Use appropriate hook size for the shark targeted.
  • Use heavy tackle, a minimum of 80-pound test.
  • Tail-ropes are a commonly used gear that can be helpful in controlling the shark for a quick release, but should not be used if they delay release. 
  • The possession/use of a device capable of quickly cutting the leader or hook when targeting sharks is required (when fishing from shore or a vessel).

Sharks are powerful animals. Ensure the safety of both the angler and the shark by handling and releasing Shark-Smart.

  • Minimize fight time. Use Shark-Smart tackle.
  • Do not specifically target sharks if the surf is too rough to release appropriately and safely. 
  • Keep sharks, especially the gills, in the water.
  • Removing sharks from the water can increase the likelihood of injuries to the shark.
  • NEVER bring a large shark onto a fishing vessel, a pier or bridge or onto dry land beyond the surf zone unless you plan to harvest it.
  • Minimize handling and release time and do not delay release just to take pictures.
  • Do not sit on the shark’s back.
  • Use a long-handled dehooking device to help with hook removal if it does not delay release.
  • If you cannot safely and quickly remove the hook from the mouth, a bolt cutter may be used to cut the hook. If this method delays release or it becomes unsafe to do so, leave the hook in the shark and cut the leader as close to the hook as you can. Wire leaders can be cut with wire cutters.
  • Sharks that swim off with a long length of line trailing behind them may be less likely to survive.
  • Have release tools ready and know how to use them.
  • If taking photos, make sure the camera is ready beforehand.
  • Ensure everyone knows their role in the release procedure prior to the fishing trip.

Fish Shark-Smart from a boat:

  • Keep the shark in the water alongside the vessel.
  • Release activities such as taking photos and removing the hook should be done while the shark is in the water.

Fish Shark-Smart from the shore:

  • Keep the shark in as much water as is safely possible.
  • Avoid shark fishing on crowded beaches or during high-traffic times of the day.
  • Avoid shark fishing near swimmers or popular swimming areas.
  • Starting July 1: Chumming is prohibited from the beach when fishing for any species.
  • Sea turtle nesting season is from March through October each year. During these months, use only amber or red lighting when fishing from the shore. Learn more about what you can do while sharing the shore with sea turtles in the Sea Turtle Brochure 

Fish Shark-Smart from a pier:

  • Most piers and bridges are high above the water, making handling and release difficult. Catch-and-release shark fishing is not recommended from these locations.
  • Do NOT bring a large shark onto a pier or bridge. Instead, walk the shark to the base of the bridge/pier before removing the hook or cutting the line.
  • Small sharks can be brought up from the water for hook removal by using a bridge/pier net.
  • When releasing, use the pier net to lower the fish back down to the water.
small tooth sawfish

Sawfish are federally listed as endangered. Do not intentionally target, harass or unnecessarily handle a sawfish. Hooked sawfish should be released as quickly as possible. Learn more about sawfish

Is that shark tagged?

  • The recapture of a tagged shark can provide a wealth of data.
  • If it is safe to do so, record the information on the tag and leave it intact and attached to the shark.
  • If it is not safe to read the information on the tag, remove it by cutting the monofilament tether at the base of the tag. Do NOT attempt to pull the tag out.
  • Report the shark to the agency listed on the tag.
  • Visit the NOAA Apex Predator Program for more information at na.nefsc.noaa. gov/sharks/tagging.html.