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Living Sanibel: Blacktip Shark

By Staff | Sep 27, 2013

Blacktip shark. Wikipedia Commons.

Pine Island Sound is one of Florida’s major blacktop shark nurseries. This small, timid shark, is a regular catch of inshore fishermen and considered to be one of the better eating sharks found in our local waters. There are 28 unprovoked blacktip shark attacks recorded in Florida, with no fatalities. The blacktip shark is not considered dangerous when compared with the bull, great white, and tiger sharks.

The blacktip is one of only a handful of animals known to be capable of parthenogenesis, allowing the female blacktip to give birth to pups without fertilization. The Nile monitor lizard, Komodo dragons, and bonnethead sharks are also capable of this highly unusual asexual reproduction. The reasons for this unusual ability are unclear.

The blacktip is considered a game fish by the IGFA. It makes long, quick runs, leaps out of the water frequently, and does not come to the boat easily. Wire is mandatory, as its sharp teeth will tear through monofilament leader in seconds. Unless taken for the dinner table, the blacktip, as well as all sharks, should never be lifted out of the water (especially vertically!). Its internal organs are not designed to withstand the forces of gravity for any length of time. Although holding one up high with a pair of Boca-grips might make for a great photo op, in all likelihood you are killing or seriously injuring the fish for a snapshot. If you are planning to release your fish, keep it in the water, take your picture, revive it if necessary by dragging it behind the boat, and set it free.

It is best to use non-stainless steel circle hooks (the kind that rust quickly) and either remove the hook (very carefully) or cut the wire as close to the hook as possible. The hook will rust away within a short time, and if the fish is never lifted out of the water, internal injuries will be avoided. Catch-and-release shark fishing can be a thrilling way to spend an evening to say the least.

The blacktip dines predominantly on fish. It takes menhaden, Spanish sardines, pinfish, grunts, catfish, mojarras, and triggerfish, as well as skates and rays. It is preyed upon, especially the pups, by finfish and most of the other sharks. The mortality rate for Pine Island Sound juvenile blacktips has been estimated to exceed 85 percent. Unlike most sharks, blacktips tend to stay close together, and once a school is located, the fishing can become quite frenetic.

-This article is an excerpt from Living Sanibel-A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.