Best Release Practices
Education is the most valuable tool for anyone interested in fishing for and encountering any shark. Learn about their biology and conservation status, as well as how they respond to fishing to prepare yourself for releasing each shark in the best possible condition that promotes their survival.
Sharks: Best Practices for Successful Catch & Release
- Bring in the shark quickly. Longer fight times could mean the shark will be at a higher risk of mortality. (Prohibited or protected species that die while on the line after being caught must be returned to the water.)
- Use lots of drag and heavy enough tackle to limit extended fight times. Think about what size shark you will be catching. The bigger the shark, the heavier the tackle should be.
- Do not remove sharks from water — extended air exposure could be deadly.
- Take photos with the shark in the water.
- Circle hooks are generally recommended to promote jaw-hooking and avoid gut hooking most fish species. Some shark fishermen, however, believe that J-hooks may be more easily removed from sharks than circle hooks because circle hooks tend to get caught in a shark's rough skin. Additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of circle hooks for increasing shark survival in the recreational shark fishery.
What is known about the benefits of using circle hooks for shark fishing comes from research conducted in commercial longline fisheries, where shark capture occurs mostly as bycatch. Studies suggest that the use of circle hooks in the longline fishery does reduce at-vessel mortality compared to J-hooks, but more definitive research is needed before scientific consensus on circle hooks as a conservation tool for sharks can emerge.
- Bending barbs down is a good idea to make hook removal easier. Use non-stainless steel hooks so they can dissolve if they remain in the shark.
- Use a dehooking device to remove hooks safely. Longer handled tools work better for sharks.
- If a hook does not come out easily, use pliers to clip the leader as close to the shark as can be done safely.
- Do not gaff sharks you plan on releasing.
- Use a tail rope for species that are difficult to restrain.
- Use non-stainless steel hooks so they will rust out if they cannot be removed.
- Shark Information (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
- Fish Handling Practices (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
- Common Sharks of Florida (Florida Sea Grant)
- A Guide to Circle Hooks (Florida Sea Grant)
- Recreational Shark Fishing Healthy Catch-and-Release (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Sustainable Sport Fishing for Thresher Sharks (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Podcast: Hooked on Sharks (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Best Practice Shark Handling Guide (The Shark Trust)
- A Guide to Sharks, Tunas & Billfishes in the U.S. Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico (Rhode Island Sea Grant)
- Shark Biology and Conservation (MOTE Marine Laboratory)
- Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide (Gene Helfman and George H. Burgess)
- Circle hooks and sharks (Bulletin of Marine Science)
- Guy Harvey Research Institute Shark Tracker