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Shark Identification Guide

A guide to some sharks commonly caught in coastal waters.

Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

The Mako shark is a prized gamefish because of its propensity to jump out of the water in the heat of battle. Its large, ghostly, black eyes and protruding teeth are its trademark. The Mako also sports a pointed nose and darker colors on the upper part of the body. Maximum size - 12 feet.

Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas

The Bull shark is a heavy bodied shark common in inland bays and along coastlines. Known to swim up rivers and survive in freshwater. It is grayish/brown in color. Younger specimens tend to be gray with brown becoming more noticeable as the shark ages. Younger sharks will have a more distinguished black outline to the tail fin. The nose is stubby and blunt. Grows up to 12 feet.

Tiger Shark

Galeocerdo cuvieri

Few have not heard of the fierce Tiger shark. Easily identified by the tiger-stripe pattern on its gray sides and its square nose. Grows up to 20 feet.

Lemon Shark

Negaprion brevirostris

The Lemon shark is a yellow/brown to gray shark that is easily identified by its nearly identical dorsal fins. The rear fin is only slightly smaller than the forward fin. Grows up to 11 feet.

Blacktip Shark

Carcharhinus limbatus

The Blacktip shark is commonly caught in shallow as well as deeper offshore waters. It is identified by the black tips of its fins. It also has a faint white streak coming from belly up onto sides. It is almost identical to the Spinner shark, but is differentiated by its larger eyes and lack of black markings on the anal fin. Grows to a length of 8 feet.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Rhizoprionodon terraenovae

The Atlantic Sharpnose shark is a smaller species found in the Northwestern Atlantic South to the Gulf of Mexico. Body is gray with distinctive lighter splotches or spots at random locations on sides. The effect is gives the appeance that drops of bleach were dripped on the shark's side creating lighter spots. Grows to a length of 4 feet.

Sandbar Shark

Carcharhinus plumbeus

A medium sized shark found in tropical waters world wide. Sandbar sharks are relatively heavy bodied sharks that range from blue to gray to brown in color. Their disctinctive feature is a very large, triangular dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is much larger in proportion to the body than in other sharks. Grows to a length of 8 feet.

Sand Tiger Shark

Odontaspis taurus

A medium to large sized shark that is found from Brazil to Maine including the Gulf of Mexico. It is more common along the northeastern coast of the United States. This shark looks intimidating with its heavy body and many rows of snarled teeth. Has been known to attack man. Grows to a length of 10 feet.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Sphyrna lewini

One of several species of hammerhead shark. The differences between the several species of hammerhead shark are subtle, but they are easy to identify with their large, hammer shaped head. The only shark that looks similar is the bonnethead shark (Sphyrma tiburo) which has a similarly shaped head which is only half as wide. Known to attack humans. They grow to a length of 14 feet.