Published On: November 19th, 2019Last Updated: March 24th, 20226 min read

Shark Fishing in the Florida Keys

Often clients call and request to catch something VERY BIG. Sharks always put up a great fight as they are incredibly powerful and often weigh hundreds of pounds. There are many different types of Sharks in the waters of Florida, however we will focus on the ones we see and hook the most while fishing out of Marathon and Key Colony Beach, Florida. Some clients ask specifically to target shark on their trip but we also catch them while targeting other species. Sometimes our crews will see an opportunity to hook a big shark and ask the client if they are interested in fighting one. If they are up for it, we will put a bait in front of a monster shark and it’s usually game on!

Mako and Thresher Sharks

When we are deep dropping 30+ miles offshore in depths over a thousand feet hunting for Broadbill Swordfish, we have caught Mako and Bigeye Thresher Sharks. The Mako Shark is divided into two different categories, Shortfin Mako and Longfin Mako. We often see either one weighing more than 300 pounds. According to the FWC website at the time of this posting, Longfin Mako Sharks are unlawful to harvest, so they must be released. The Shortfin Mako can be harvested legally, as long as strict regulations are met. The Bigeye Thresher shark is a very unique looking species, as it’s eye is very large (hence the name) and it has an unusually long tail. Thresher sharks are also protected and must be released.

Thresher Shark Video Clip

Hammerhead, Dusky, and Silky Sharks

If you have ever fished the Marathon hump on one of our vessels, you may have encountered the sharks that follow our boats around trying to eat the Blackfin Tuna that we hook. This is why you have to wind very quickly, so you have a chance to get a whole tuna into the boat! We most commonly see Hammerhead Sharks, Dusky Sharks, and Silky sharks at the hump and they are usually several hundred pounds or more.

Every now and then we get a client that actually wants to fight one of these monster Sharks and since we have the equipment to do it, we will oblige. We take a huge circle hook and a metal leader on a big rod and reel and rig it with a bait that the Sharks usually go for. These sharks are incredibly powerful and It can take several hours to land a huge Shark which usually means everyone on the boat has a go at the beast, including the Mate! These sharks are also protected, so once they are caught we release them. We use a circle hook that hooks the Shark in the corner of the mouth to keep the line away from the sharks sharp teeth, and also because it is safer for the fish and our crew. We use hooks that deteriorate in saltwater in the event the Mate can not safely remove the hook.

Fun fish story, the Sharks were in such a frenzy while Tuna fishing on the Hump that we felt a loud bump on the bottom of the boat. We took that vessel out of the water a day or two later for maintenance and to our disbelief, there were Shark teeth marks on the hull of the boat!

Sharkbite Tuna Florida Keys

My Tuna got sharked!

Sharks following Tuna on Main Attraction 1

Bull Sharks

We also encounter Bull sharks at the Marathon Hump, when fishing sunken wrecks, and when fishing Tarpon. Bull sharks are well known for their aggressive demeanor and their ability to live in both fresh and saltwater. Adult Bullsharks usually weigh in between 200 and 300lbs. We have had hooked Amberjack that weigh well over a hundred pounds bitten in half or even consumed entirely by a huge Bull Shark while fishing the wrecks.

Shallow Water Sharks

When fighting a big Tarpon over 100lbs often near or under bridges, our Captains always keep an eye out for large Hammerheads and Bull Sharks that would gladly take advantage of a hooked Tarpon as an opportunity for a meal. In this scenario our Captains will take evasive maneuvers with the boat, try to scare it off or even release the tarpon from the line to give it a fighting chance to get away from the Shark. While targeting Tarpon it is not uncommon for a Lemon, Blacknose or Blacktip Shark to eat the bait. If the circle hook finds the corner of their mouth as it normally does, and the angler keeps the line tight they can be caught and released successfully despite the fluorocarbon leader we use for Tarpon. This can actually be quite a lot of fun to do with the light tackle we use for Tarpon.

Silky Shark

Caught on a Deep Drop Rig

Dusky Shark

Nurse Sharks

We also find Nurse sharks most commonly on the reef while we are fishing for Yellowtail Snapper. We hook, catch, and release them when targeting grouper on the bottom with live baits. They are bottom dwellers, and for the most part, harmless, but don’t underestimate their ability to protect themselves and strike as necessary. Nurse sharks can reach 14 feet long. While their teeth do not look like the typical razor-sharp teeth we see in other sharks it is still very important to keep your hands away from their mouth. They have thousands of tiny teeth and extremely strong jaws used to crush and eat shellfish and even coral.

Shark Bait

Sharks seem to pretty much eat anything as they are opportunistic feeders, but each species we catch do have their preferences. Usually you want to offer a Shark what they either seem to be feeding on already or what food source is most likely to be in that area. Sharks will eat live bait, especially ones behaving erratically because it has a hook in it. They are also not leader shy allowing you to use rigs that have heavy metal leader and thick monofilament rated for even 100lb-300lbs depending on the size of the shark. For dead baits you want to use fish that have a strong scent, are oily and bloody. This usually means fish like Barracuda, Bonita, and Mackerel. In some scenarios, Sharks will also eat Tuna or Mahi carcasses after the valuable fillet meat has already been removed for human consumption.

The great thing about charter fishing in the Florida Keys is you never really know what you are going to catch or see until you go! If you are interested in fishing with the Main Attraction team call us at 305-289-0071 or visit our contact page for more.

Nurse Shark Catch and Release

Big Nurse Shark Catch and Release

Nurse Shark on Reef

Nurse Shark on the Reef


Barracuda make great Shark Bait!

Florida Keys Whale Shark
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