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Ultimate Guide to Shark Fishing in Florida

Shark fishing offers the ultimate test of strength and skill for anglers in search of a unique fishing experience. Here, you’ll find a wealth of expert knowledge, tips, and tested methods to ensure your next shark fishing trip is a success. Florida offers some of the best shark fishing in the world; we’ll take you through why that is and how to make the most of it. The expert guides that call these waters home are the greatest resource when it comes to shark fishing in Florida. So, we relied on their expertise in creating this guide, to ensure it helps you for your next trip on the water with them.

Courtesy of Florida Keys Fun Fishing.

Courtesy of Florida Keys Fun Fishing.

This article covers:

Florida shark behavior

Sharks (Selachimorpha) are the apex predators of Florida's saltwater ecosystems. Among the most thrilling and sporting fish any angler can target, sharks thrive in Florida’s waters due to their incredible biodiversity and abundance of reefs. The underwater structure of the Florida Keys serves as the perfect habitat for a number of unique shark species. In addition, the offshore fishing opportunities for shark fishing are heavily enriched along the Florida Coast, Gulf Coast, and Atlantic Ocean due to the warm water and fish that follow it up from the tropics. Sharks are known for their cartilaginous skeletons, sharp teeth, and streamlined bodies built for efficient swimming and lethal hunting.

Florida is a prime habitat for many shark species, but the most common species include bull sharkstiger sharkshammerhead sharkslemon sharks, and the iconic great white shark. These sharks vary in size, with some reaching lengths exceeding 20 feet and weighing several thousand pounds. While these world-class predators can be found across the Gulf Coast — primarily on underwater structures like reefs and wrecks — a guide can greatly increase the success of your experience.

Shark migration patterns 

Sharks in Florida exhibit distinct migration patterns influenced by factors such as water temperature, food availability, and breeding cycles. During the warmer months, many shark species migrate northward along the Florida coast, following prey species and seeking optimal water temperatures for feeding and reproduction. Conversely, as temperatures cool, some sharks migrate southward or offshore to deeper, warmer waters.

Shark feeding behavior

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species and prey availability. Some sharks, like bull sharks, are known for their aggressive feeding habits and ability to hunt in diverse habitats, including estuaries, coastal waters, and even freshwater rivers. Other species, such as hammerhead sharks, use their unique head shape to detect and capture prey hidden in the sand or near structures.

Shark nursery areas 

Florida's coastal waters serve as important nursery areas for many shark species. These shallow, protected habitats provide young sharks with ample food resources and protection from larger predators. Mangrove shorelines, seagrass beds, and nearshore reefs are among the preferred nursery habitats for juvenile sharks — offering a mix of food, shelter, and suitable water conditions.

Best shark fishing spots in Florida

Anglers seeking to target sharks in Florida have a wide range of options, with numerous hotspots known for productive shark fishing. Here are some of the top shark fishing locations in Florida.

Miami Beach

Known for its diverse shark species and accessibility for shore-based anglers, Miami Beach offers opportunities to catch species like blacktip sharks, nurse sharks, and bull sharks.

Key West

The waters around Key West attract a variety of shark species, including lemon sharks, tiger sharks, and reef sharks. Charter boats and guided tours are popular options for shark fishing enthusiasts.


Destin provides incredible access to nearshore and offshore reefs and wrecks that abound with tiger sharks, reef sharks, and bonnetheads. The Gulf Stream keeps these waters warm and teeming with life ensuring an abundance of hungry sharks and opportunities to catch them. 

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Shark after being caught and before being released. Courtesy of Southeastern Angling.

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach is renowned for its shark fishing tournaments and the chance to catch large species like hammerhead sharks and bonnetheads. Anglers can fish from the beach or book offshore charters for deep-sea shark fishing.

Fort Lauderdale

With its proximity to deep waters and offshore reefs, Fort Lauderdale is a prime location for targeting pelagic sharks such as mako sharks and thresher sharks. Experienced anglers often venture farther offshore for these elusive species.

Tampa Bay

The expansive waters of Tampa Bay provide a habitat for a variety of shark species, including bull sharks, bonnethead sharks, and spinner sharks. Anglers can fish from piers, bridges, or charter boats to access productive shark fishing grounds.

Pro tips for shark fishing in Florida

Shark fishing in Florida is a thrilling experience that requires preparation, knowledge, and the right techniques. Here are some pro tips to help you maximize your success and enjoy a safe and productive shark fishing adventure.

Choosing the right bait

Selecting the right bait is crucial for attracting sharks. Sharks are opportunistic feeders with a keen sense of smell, so using fresh, oily bait is highly effective. Some of the best baits for shark fishing include:

  • Bonito: Oily and readily available, making it an excellent choice.
  • Mackerel: Another oily fish that releases a strong scent trail in the water.
  • Ladyfish: Effective for various shark species, especially when cut into chunks.
  • Bluefish: A favorite among many shark anglers for its strong scent.

Where to fish

The location plays a significant role in shark fishing success. Different shark species prefer different habitats, so targeting the right spots is essential:

  • Beaches and estuaries: Ideal for species like blacktip and spinner sharks, especially during their migration periods.
  • Nearshore reefs and wrecks: Great for catching lemon sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerheads. These structures attract smaller fish, which in turn attract sharks.
  • Offshore waters: Best for larger species like bull sharks and tiger sharks. Deep waters around the Gulf Stream are particularly productive.

When to fish

Understanding the best times to fish can significantly increase your chances of success:

  • Seasons: Summer is the peak season for shark fishing, but spring and fall also offer excellent opportunities. Refer to the seasonal chart for detailed insights.
  • Time of day: Sharks are most active during dawn and dusk when they hunt for prey. Night fishing can also be highly effective, especially in areas with less daytime activity.
  • Tides: Sharks tend to follow the tides as they bring in food. Fishing during incoming and high tides can be particularly productive.

Targeting specific shark species

Different shark species have unique preferences and behaviors. Here are tips for targeting some of the most common species in Florida:

  • Bull sharks: Often found in shallow waters, including estuaries and rivers. They are aggressive and will go after a variety of baits, but large chunks of bonito or mackerel work well.
  • Tiger sharks: Preferring offshore reefs and deeper waters, tiger sharks are attracted to large, oily baits like bonito and whole fish.
  • Hammerhead sharks: Frequently found around reefs and wrecks. They use their unique head shape to detect prey buried in the sand, so fresh cut baits placed near the bottom are effective.
  • Lemon sharks: These sharks are often found in nearshore waters around reefs and mangroves. They respond well to live baits like mullet or bluefish.

Additional tips

  • Chumming: Creating a chum slick with a mixture of fish parts and oils can draw sharks to your fishing area from a distance.
  • Gear and Tackle: Use heavy-duty rods and reels, strong monofilament or braided lines, and steel leaders to handle the power and sharp teeth of sharks. Circle hooks are recommended for catch-and-release fishing, as they reduce injury to the shark.
  • Safety: Always handle sharks with care and respect. Use gloves, and long-handled pliers for hook removal, and avoid bringing large sharks into the boat if possible. Release sharks quickly to ensure their survival.

Best seasons for shark fishing in Florida

Understanding the best seasons for shark fishing in Florida can significantly enhance your fishing success. Sharks' migration patterns, influenced by water temperature, food availability, and breeding cycles, determine when and where different species can be found. Here's a detailed look at the best times of the year for shark fishing in Florida.

Seasonal Shark Fishing Overview

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Shark after being reeled in by young angler alongside expert guide. Courtesy of Fin’s Guide Company.

Spring (March - May)

Spring marks the beginning of the prime shark fishing season in Florida. As water temperatures rise, many shark species, including blacktip, spinner, and hammerhead sharks, migrate northward along the coast. This season is characterized by an abundance of baitfish, attracting a variety of sharks to the shallow waters near beaches and estuaries.

Summer (June - August)

Summer is the peak season for shark fishing in Florida. Warm water temperatures and plentiful prey make this an ideal time for targeting species like bull sharks, tiger sharks, and lemon sharks. Offshore fishing is particularly productive, with many sharks found around reefs, wrecks, and deeper waters.

Fall (September - November)

Fall continues to offer excellent shark fishing opportunities, especially as some species begin their southward migration. As water temperatures gradually cool, sharks like the hammerhead move closer to shore. This season provides a mix of both inshore and offshore fishing experiences.

Winter (December - February)

While winter can be a challenging time for shark fishing if the water temperature drops very low, it still offers some excellent fishing for sandbar sharks and other seasonal pushes of inshore shark species. Many sharks move offshore to deeper, warmer waters during the winter, but species like sandbar sharks and blacktip reef sharks are still common and offer very consistent fishing — particularly in the southern regions of Florida.

SeasonWater temperatureCommon shark speciesBest locationsFishing tips
Spring70-80°FBlacktip, spinner, hammerheadBeaches, estuaries, nearshore reefsFocus on shallow waters with rising temperatures
Summer80-85°FBull, tiger, lemonOffshore reefs, wrecks, deep watersUse heavy tackle and target deeper waters
Fall75-80°FHammerhead, blacktipCoastal waters, nearshore structuresLook for sharks migrating closer to shore
Winter65-70°FBull, tigerSouthern Florida, offshore deeper watersTarget areas with warmer water temperatures

Shark fishing equipment and gear

When targeting sharks, anglers should use robust fishing gear designed for handling large, strong fish. This includes heavy-duty rods and reelsstrong monofilament or braided fishing lines, steel leaders to prevent bite-offs, and circle hooks for safe catch-and-release fishing. Here’s an in-depth look at the essential equipment and gear for shark fishing in Florida.

Shark fishing rods and poles

When selecting a shark fishing rod or pole, durability and strength are key. Sharks are incredibly powerful, and your equipment must be able to withstand their intense runs and sudden bursts of speed.

  • Rods: Look for heavy-duty rods specifically designed for big game fishing. A rod with a rating of 50-80 pounds is typically sufficient for most shark species. However, for larger sharks like bull sharks, you might want to consider rods rated up to 100 pounds or more.
  • Rod length: Rods between 6 to 8 feet in length are ideal. Shorter rods (around 6 feet) provide better leverage and control when fighting large sharks, while longer rods (up to 8 feet) are useful for casting baits further out from shore or a boat.

Best reels for shark fishing

A high-quality reel is crucial for handling the power and speed of a shark. Choose reels that are durable, have a high line capacity, and offer smooth drag systems.

  • Conventional reels: These are preferred for shark fishing due to their strength and ability to hold large amounts of heavy line. Look for reels with a high drag capacity (at least 30 pounds of drag) and a robust build to withstand the stress of long battles.
  • Spinning reels: While less common, heavy-duty spinning reels can be used for smaller shark species. Ensure they have a high line capacity and strong drag system to handle the fight.

Fishing lines for shark fishing

Choosing the right line is essential for shark fishing. Sharks are strong and can easily break weaker lines.

  • Monofilament line: Monofilament lines are popular due to their stretch, which can absorb the shock of a shark's powerful runs. Use lines with a breaking strength of at least 80-100 pounds for most shark fishing scenarios.
  • Braided line: Braided lines offer higher strength and smaller diameter compared to monofilament. They are less stretchy, providing better sensitivity and hook-setting power. A 65-100 pound test braided line is recommended for shark fishing.

Leaders and hooks for shark fishing

To prevent sharks from biting through your line, strong leaders and the right hooks are essential.

  • Steel leaders: Sharks have sharp teeth that can easily cut through regular fishing lines. Use steel leaders, which are durable and can withstand the bite force of large sharks. Leaders should be at least 3 feet long, with a breaking strength of 100-200 pounds.
  • Circle hooks: Circle hooks are preferred for shark fishing as they are more likely to hook the shark in the corner of the mouth, reducing injury and facilitating easier release. Use hooks sized 10/0 to 14/0, depending on the size of the shark you are targeting.

Additional gear for shark fishing

  • Harness and fighting belt: These tools help distribute the strain of fighting a large shark, making the experience more comfortable and reducing fatigue.
  • Gloves and long-handled pliers: Essential for handling sharks safely and removing hooks. Gloves protect your hands from the shark's rough skin and teeth, while long-handled pliers allow you to remove hooks without getting too close.

Shark conservation and regulations

Conservation of shark populations is a priority in Florida, with regulations in place to ensure sustainable fishing practices and protect vulnerable species. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees shark fishing regulations, including:

  • Size and bag limits: Restrictions on the minimum and maximum size of sharks that can be harvested, as well as daily bag limits for certain species.
  • Protected species: Designation of certain shark species as protected or prohibited from harvest due to conservation concerns.
  • Gear restrictions: Prohibitions on specific fishing gear, such as gill nets or longlines, to reduce bycatch and protect non-target species.
  • Reporting requirements: Mandatory reporting of shark catches and landings by anglers, commercial fishermen, and charter operators to track fishing pressure and population trends.

Anglers should familiarize themselves with the latest FWC regulations and guidelines before engaging in shark fishing activities to ensure compliance with legal requirements and contribute to shark conservation efforts.

How to book your next shark fishing trip

Plan ahead by setting specific dates, checking the weather, and packing appropriately for the season. Research the best times for targeting your desired shark species, as their availability varies throughout the year. Choose a prime shark fishing location in Florida, such as Miami Beach or the Florida Keys, based on your preferences. Consult with a professional guide who can handle gear, licensing, and logistics, ensuring a smooth and unforgettable shark fishing experience. Booking with AnyCreek will provide you with the proper expertise, safety, and the best chance for a successful adventure.

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