Best Fishing Practices

Download our Shark Card with these Best Fishing Practices

Safe Catch & Release FROM SHORE

Catching and releasing sharks in a way that increases their chance of survival is an important step toward achieving and maintaining healthy, sustainable shark populations. 

In compliance with regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and National Marine Fisheries Service

Permits & Knowledge

Fishing Location and Timing

  • Avoid shark fishing on crowded beaches or during high-trafficked times of the day.
  • Avoid shark fishing near swimmers or popular swimming areas.
  • Do not target sharks if the surf is too rough for you to safely catch and release them.
  • Sea turtle nesting season is from April 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 here.
  • Swimming or kayaking bait out a long way from shore is going to significantly increase the fight time once a shark has been hooked; the longer the fight time, the more danger to the shark. We encourage anglers to refrain from using this practice. 


  • Chumming of any kind is prohibited when fishing from shore or when wade fishing in waters adjacent to shore. 

Gear Requirements

  • Hook and line method only
  • You must possess a compliant tool capable of quickly cutting the leader or hook if necessary such as pliers.
  • The State of Florida prohibits stainless steel hooks, and any hook with two or more points and a common shaft is illegal. The barb of the hook must be filed off. 
  • Use non-offset, carbon circle hooks. Sharks are more likely to swallow and become gut-hooked by J-hooks. 
  • Use heavy tackle; a minimum of 80-pound test, with a leader. Using too light of tackle to lengthen fight time should be discouraged. 
  • Gaffs should not be used. 



Shark on the line

  • Once you have a shark on the line, minimizing fighting time is critical to a shark’s chances of survival.
  • Fighting a shark to exhaustion drastically increases the likelihood that it will die (often shortly after being released).


Landing the shark: treat unknown shark species as a prohibited species (If you don’t know, let it go!)

  • Prohibited species must always remain in the water; this includes when removing the hook and releasing the shark. Sharks do not have rigid skeletons and should not be removed from the water once caught. Doing so increases the force of gravity on sensitive internal organs, causing possible fatal damage. 
  • If you can’t get the hook out easily, cut the line (the hook will rust out in time).
  • Never pull a shark by the tail or pick it up by the gill slits.
  • Never sit on top of a shark to pin it down.
  • Never remove a shark from the water to photograph it. 
  • Photographing a shark is an unacceptable reason to delay its release.  

If the shark is tagged

    • Recapture information is very valuable for understanding and protecting shark populations. 
    • 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.
    • This process cannot delay the release of a prohibited shark species  

Releasing the shark

  • Push the shark firmly, but gently from behind its first dorsal fin, facing it into the flow of the current to maximize water flow over the gills.
  • Never lift a shark, and never throw a shark. 
  • Maintain a visual of the shark for as long as possible to ensure that it continues to swim away.
  • **If the shark you catch and release dies, you must call the FWC fish kill hotline 800-636-0511 and report the death.


Safe Catch & Release FROM A BOAT

Here are a few important reminders as well as subtle differences in Best Shark Fishing Practices when fishing from a boat rather than from shore. These include:

  • Avoid using a gaff
  • Do not lift the shark from the water while removing the hook
    • Use a cradle to stabilize the shark in the water
    • Maneuver the shark to the transom (swim platform on the stern of the boat), where you can get closer to the water without having to lean over the railing of the boat
  • Do not lift the shark from the water to take photographs 


Illustrations: Paul Harmon

Photo: Michael Timm