10 Sharks off Mississippi’s Coast

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: August 22, 2022
© iStock.com/AlAlessandro De Maddalena
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If you are heading out to Gulfport Beach, Biloxi Beach or another of the great beaches along the coast, you might be curious if there are sharks off the coast of Mississippi. Many of the beautiful beaches along the coast of Mississippi and in the Mississippi Sound have a variety of marine life including redfish, black drum, speckled trout, Atlantic stingray, crabs, shrimp and…yes…sharks.

Some of the shark species can be found in shallower water, close to shore, and others are deepwater sharks. Sharks are most common from spring until fall with many species using the waters off the coast as nurseries for their baby sharks. Let’s look at the 10 sharks off the coast of Mississippi.

1) Atlantic sharpnose shark 

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
The smaller sharpnose shark is one of the most common sharks off the coast of Mississippi.

©Finley Del/Shutterstock.com

The most common shark seen off the coast of Mississippi is the Atlantic sharpnose shark. They are also a pretty small shark when it comes to sharks. They get their name from their long snout that looks like a sharp nose. Their coloring is universal grey with faint white spots along their back. The average sharpnose shark is only 2 ½ feet long, with the max being around 3 ½ feet.

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2) Blacktip

Most aggressive sharks - blacktip shark
You can see how the blacktip sharks get their name.

©Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com

Another common shark seen off the coast of Mississippi is the blacktip shark. These sharks get their name from the faded black tips on their fins. They are quite a bit larger than the sharpnose sharks and can get to be 6ft 3in but most are around 4ft 8in. Since they feed by shore they are more commonly seen by beachgoers.

3) Bull shark

Bull shark in Caribbean sea.
Bull sharks have a bit of an attitude and are known to be agressive.

©Carlos Grillo/Shutterstock.com

One of the only sharks that can handle freshwater, the bull shark can be found in the Sound and in some of the brackish waters along the coast. The younger smaller sharks may be found in the estuaries and rivers with the adults preferring the Gulf. Bull sharks are good-sized, with the adults getting to be 7ft 5in – 9ft 4in…longer than a human swimmer! Bear in mind that they are an aggressive shark and do have a history of attacks on humans.

4) Finetooth

Finetooth sharks
Finetooth sharks swim in large groups to hunt for food. “Sharks!”

©Brenda Bowling, tpwd.texas.gov / public domain – License

If you are at the beach and see a shark you may holler “Shark!” but can you imagine having to yell “Sharks!” Finetooth sharks often swim in schools so you could see a large group of sharks swimming of the coast. Finetooths are a slender shark around 4-6 feet in length. They get their name from the skinny pointed teeth that lines their mouths. During the summer you may find them over mud flats looking for food. They hunt together in schools for menhaden, mackerel, and squid.

5) Spinner

Spinner Shark jumping, Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Area, Florida.
Can you imagine watching a shark leap out of the water and do a triple?

“What was that?!”  If you saw a shark leap out of the water and literally spin around you would be amazed. That is exactly what spinner sharks do. Are they just showing off or is there a purpose to this behavior? The spinner shark uses the spinning technique as a way to catch fish in its mouth. It starts below the surface with its mouth open swimming through a large school of fish then leaps out of the water, spinning up to three times around (that’s a triple in figure skating) then landing back in the water to enjoy their catch. Spinners are heavily fished for their flesh, hide, fins, and liver, so much so that they are listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN.

6) Tiger Shark

Tiger shark swimming on reef.
You can see the tiger-like stripes on this large tiger shark.

©le bouil baptiste/Shutterstock.com

Leaving the shoreline, the next group of sharks are all deepwater sharks that can be found further off the coast of Mississippi. Tiger sharks really do have tiger-like markings on their back. Tiger sharks are also big, with the largest getting to be around 15ft long! There have only been three recorded shark attacks in Mississippi, according to the Shark Attack Data, and one of those was by a Tiger Shark. There is a record that dates back to January 1, 1879, reported in the Indiana County Gazette, when Gus Ericson was attacked by a Tiger Shark which ended in his death. He was floating on a life buoy in the Mississippi Delta after being capsized. A passing boat tried to save Ericson but they watched in horror as a large tiger shark grabbed the man and pulled him under, a tragic but extremely rare occurrence.

7) Blacknose

A realistic illustration of Blacknose shark
Blacknose shark is a type of shark that’s less aggressive

©3DMI/Shutterstock.com

The Blacknose sharks have a black nose and copper-colored body. Their eyes are not as big as the Mako shark but their eyes do seem larger than usual. Blacknoses are a smaller shark that sometimes is mixed-up with lemon sharks because of their coloring. They average around 3-4 feet long on average.

8) Shortfin Mako

Short fin mako shark swimming just under the surface, about 50 kilometers off the Western Cape coast in South Africa.
The big-eyed shortfin mako is the fastest shark in the world.

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

The shortfin mako could be called the big-eyed shark because of its large cartoon-sized eyes. They have a bluer color and a large tail fin. The range in size of the shortfin mako is 6 ½ -13 feet, so a good-sized shark. Shortfin makos are known to be the fastest shark in the ocean with records set at 40 mph! Now that is a fast shark!

9) Hammerhead (Bonnethead, Scalloped, Great)

The eyes of Great Hammerhead Sharks sit on the edge of their mallet-shaped heads, they have excellent eyesight and a 360 view of their surroundings, making them skilled hunters.
The hammerhead shark has eyes at the ends of their hammer-shaped heads. They actually have excellent eyesight.

©Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

Occasionally there are sightings of hammerhead sharks out deeper off Mississippi’s coast. Three types of hammerheads that have been seen include the bonnethead, scalloped and great hammerhead. As their name implies they have a uniquely shaped head that looks like a hammer. Not only are their head shaped like hammers but their eyes are located on the ends of each hammer head! The Bonnetheads are around 2-5 feet long, the scalloped 6-11 feet, but the great hammerheads can get to be 16 feet long, with the largest specimens even pushing 20 feet!

10) Sharpnose sevengill

Broadnose sevengill shark
Sevengill sharks are ancient sharks. Pictured above is a bluntnose sevengill.

©iStock.com/AlAlessandro De Maddalena

Another deepwater shark off the coast of Mississippi is the sharpnose sevengill. Most sharks have five gills on either side of their bodies but sevengills have seven. They look almost like a sturgeon with a long, skinny, torpedo-like body. They are also missing the typical dorsal fin that jets above the surface of the water as warning. Their dorsal fin is set back near their tail and is quite small.

They like to swim deep into the ocean to find small fish and squid so they are less likely to be seen. Sharpnose sevengills are around 3-3 ½ feet long, so they’re not a huge shark like the Tiger Shark.


The Featured Image

Broadnose sevengill shark
© iStock.com/AlAlessandro De Maddalena

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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