Harvestable sharks fall into the following three groups of species:
Group 1 sharks (8 species) have no minimum size limit and include:
- Atlantic Sharpnose
- Smooth dogfish
- Florida smoothhound
- Gulf smoothhound
Group 2 sharks (7 species) have a 54 inch (fork length) minimum size limit and include:
- Oceanic whitetip
- Thresher (common)
Group 3 shark (1 species) has an 83 inch (fork length) minimum size limit and includes:
- Shortfin mako
Bag and vessel limits for Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 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.
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)
Prohibited shark species must 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.
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.
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).
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 is prohibited when fishing for any species from the beach.
Shore-based Shark Fishing
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 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.
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.
- Prohibited shark species remain in the water with the gills submerged when fishing from shore or from a vessel
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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. If you catch a sawfish, you should cut the hook or cut the leader as close to the hook as possible, and release without delay. Do not try to remove the hook as this can be dangerous and causes added stress to the fish. Learn more about sawfish.
Giant manta rays are federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Do not intentionally target, harass or unnecessarily handle a giant manta ray. If you catch a giant manta ray, you should cut the hook, or cut the leader as close to the hook, as possible and release without delay. Do not try to remove the hook as this can be dangerous and causes added stress to the fish. Do not gaff, cut off the tail, lift, drag, or carry by cephalic lobes (“horns”), gills, or mouth. Keep the giant manta ray in the water. Allow water to flow over the gills by positioning the ray so the current flows into its mouth.
Report manta ray encounters to NOAA Fisheries at 727-824-5312; or by email at: email@example.com.
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.