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Apex Predators Program
NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC
28 Tarzwell Drive
Narragansett RI 02882-1152 USA

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NEFSC Apex Predators Program

HOW TO MAXIMIZE SHARK SURVIVABILITY

  • Use non-offset Circle Hooks, rather than J hooks. Circle hooks are more likely to lodge in the corner of the jaw, making removal of the hook easier. Circle hooks reduce the chances of gut/foul hooking the fish and increase chances of survival for the fish. Also, use hooks that are more corrosive in nature rather than stainless, so that if the hook is left in, it will rust away faster. Beginning January 1, 2018, all recreational shark anglers fishing in federal waters will be required to use non-offset, corrosive (non-stainless) circle hooks when fishing for sharks south of 41° 43’N latitude (near Chatham, Massachusetts), except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.
  • Minimize physical handling. Treat the fish as gently as possible; do not sit on them or hold their mouths open for pictures. If possible, leave the fish in the water; avoid dragging the fish on dry sand or on a boat deck. Do not grip the shark over the gills as they are easily damaged. Remember: sharks do not have bones to protect their internal organs the way we do; the larger the fish, the more prone it is to internal injury. Placing a towel soaked in seawater over the eyes may help pacify the shark. Never gaff a shark you plan on releasing!
  • Be attentive and set the hook immediately in order to lip/jaw hook the fish (non-circle hooks); this will prevent the fish from swallowing the hook. We have had few recaptures from gut hooked sharks.
  • Use a dehooker to retrieve the hook. If the hook is swallowed and is deep or if the fish is likely gut hooked, cut the line as close to the mouth as possible and release the fish.
  • Reduce fight times by having the proper gear, such as heavy tackle and a fighting harness. Long fight times put stress on the fish.
  • If the fish is fatigued or near death, try reviving it by supporting it gently in the water allowing it to breathe. Some people will carefully move the fish forward through the water to push water across the gills.
  • If the fish appears stressed or overly fatigued, do not take the extra time to tag it. We would prefer that the shark is safely released as quickly as possible.
  • If tagging, remember to place the tag in the muscle at the base of the first dorsal fin; take care to avoid injuring the spine.
  • Avoid keeping large or pregnant females.
  • Do not take prohibited species, which includes most ridgeback sharks. Prohibited species should be left in the water and released immediately.
  • Keep only the fish which you will consume within the legal bag limits. Make sure you know and abide by local, state, and federal fishing regulations that apply to your fishing area.
  • Plan your release in advance, and be prepared by having the proper release tools handy, such as a dehooker. If you are fishing with others, avoid injury by making sure everyone knows what to do and what not to do.
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(File Modified Aug. 08 2017)