Updated: Sep 12, 2018
The gear, bait, rigs and angling techniques you choose are all influenced by where you are fishing, as are the species of sharks present. Here is a list of commonly targeted species.
Up to 6 feet, 150 pounds – Commonly caught throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and migrating up past the Carolinas in the summer months. Awesome fighters, acrobats, exciting on light tackle. Will strike large plugs if sight casting in clear water. Mullet, mackerel, jacks, bonito, and ladyfish chunks work well.
Up to 8 feet, 250+ pounds – Caught all throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Florida in the winter, migrate as far north as Cape Cod in the summer. Pull off impressive runs, especially when first hooked. Commonly caught on bluefish chunks, bonita, mackerel and menhaden.
Up to 10 feet, 600 pounds – Abundant throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, up the east coast to Maryland in the summer, even found up rivers as they can tolerate fresh water. Common around south Florida, especially during the annual tarpon migration. Strong fighters, hard runs, lots of stamina. Large oily baits like kingfish, bonita, and mackerel work great, jacks and stingray work well too. Big bulls will hit 10+ pound baits.
Up to 13 feet, 1000+ pounds – Tigers are highly migratory and seem to spend a lot of time in deeper water, but are always a nice surprise from the beach. They are occasionally caught throughout the Gulf of Mexico, with some monsters being landed in Texas, east coast of Florida, and the Carolinas every year. They feed on sea turtles and are found close to shore when the turtles come in to lay their eggs. The east coast of Florida produces a lot of tigers in May and June. Lazy fighters but pull off long runs and can take a while to land, mostly due to their large size. Fish for them at night with big baits – stingray, jacks, kingfish, bonita.
Up to 15 feet, 1000+ pounds – There are several species of hammerhead, including bonnetheads, scalloped hammerheads, and the elusive greater hammerhead. Found seasonally throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, occasionally up past the Carolinas in the summer. I’ve actually seen them as far north as Nantucket in August. The greater hammerheads follow the tarpon migration and are known to feed on other sharks. Commonly caught using stingray and other large baits. The world record greater hammerhead was caught in south Florida back in 2006 – 1280 pounds and over 15 feet long. However, they are federally protected and should not be removed from the water, handle with extreme care and caution.
Up to 10 feet, 300 Pounds – Commonly caught in Maryland and New Jersey in the summer months, but their range extends from north Florida up to Cape Cod. Interesting looking sharks with mako-like teeth, tiny eyes and small fins. Slow and sluggish bottom feeders. Have large mouths and excellent sense of smell; bluefish heads, bonita, menhaden, and other large cut baits work well.
Up to 10 Feet, 400 Pounds – Caught mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and all over Florida, up into the Carolinas during the summer. They don’t seem to migrate much and can be caught year around in Florida, juveniles frequent the flats and mangrove forests around the state as well. Lemon sharks vary in color depending on the clarity of the water, east coast lemons tend to be a bright beautiful shade of yellow where west coast, murky water lemons are almost brown. Will eat big baits, stingray and jacks tend to be a favorite for larger adults.
Up to 12 Feet, 600 Pounds – Similar to bulls and sandbars but more streamlined, stronger fighters, and can reach lengths over 12 feet. Highly migratory and prefer colder water, the largest specimens come from the Florida panhandle in the winter months. Duskies are caught randomly all around the Gulf of Mexico and East coast, these sharks spend more time offshore but occasionally come in close to feed. I’ve seen them as far north as Nantucket in the summer months.
There are many other species that can be caught around the country, but these are the most commonly targeted. Nurse, mako, thresher, spinner, dogfish, blacknose, sharpnose, and even the occasional great white shark will show up from time to time. When casting or dropping big baits you have a chance at some non-shark species as well including tarpon, goliath grouper, sawfish, stingrays, and so on. One of the most exciting parts of this sport is not knowing what is on the other end of the line, sometimes for hours, until you see that fin break in the surf. The aforementioned seasonal shark locations are just basic guidelines, so do some research on the location you’ll be fishing and see what other anglers are catching. Make sure to check the laws and fishing regulations in regards to shark fishing in your area.