11 Sharks Near Maryland’s Coast and Beaches

Sand tiger shark or grey nurse shark or spotted ragged-tooth shark, Carcharias taurus, Cape Infanta, South Africa, Indian Ocean
© Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kellianne Matthews

Updated: August 7, 2023

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Maryland might be famous for the blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay, but there are many other amazing sea creatures living along its shores — including lots of sharks. Sharks are vital to sustaining the marine ecosystems in Maryland and can be found in its coastal waters all year long. In fact, there are at least 12 shark species just in Chesapeake Bay alone, and dozens more found along the coast!

But don’t worry just yet — most of the sharks near Maryland are rarely a threat to humans. In fact, there have been no recorded shark attacks in Chesapeake Bay, and only a few incidents along Maryland’s coast. Let’s take a closer look at 11 sharks near Maryland’s coast and beaches!

Dusky sharks typically live alone and have been known to migrate over 2,000 miles.

1. Sandbar Shark

sandbar shark

Sandbar sharks are one of the most common species of shark near Maryland’s coast and beaches due to the nursery area in the lower Bay.

©Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

During the summer and fall, there are many sandbar sharks near Maryland’s coast and beaches. Sandbar sharks grow between 6 and 8 feet long. However, most of the sandbar sharks near Maryland are younger, juvenile sharks because this region is one of the most important shark nursery areas along the East Coast. Like its name, the sandbar shark spends most of its time along the sandy bottom of the ocean where it hunts for fish, rays, sharks, invertebrates, and Maryland’s famous blue crabs. Unfortunately, the sandbar shark is an endangered species.

2. Bull Shark

Bull shark in Caribbean sea.

Bull sharks often visit Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of rivers near Maryland.

©Carlos Grillo/Shutterstock.com

One of the more aggressive shark species near Maryland’s coasts and beaches is the bull shark. Because these sharks can live in both saltwater and freshwater habitats, they often travel through rivers and estuaries. They have even been seen in the Potomac River! However, bull sharks only occasionally visit Chesapeake Bay during the summer months when there is plenty to eat. In fact, having bull sharks present in the Bay is a great sign that the ecosystem is healthy and doing well. Male bull sharks typically grow around 7 feet long, while females are bigger at 8 feet on average and can reach 11 feet or 13 feet at most. Bull sharks eat other sharks, crustaceans, rays, bony fish, turtles, and marine mammals.

3. Sand Tiger Shark

Sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) swimming with other fish in an aquarium.



sharks are common in the lower parts of Chesapeake Bay during the summer and fall.

©Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock.com

You might expect the sand tiger shark to be the most dangerous near Maryland because of its large size and jagged teeth. Sand tiger sharks can grow over 10 feet long and swim with their mouths open, showing off their jagged, spiky teeth. However, sand tiger sharks are sluggish and are not known to be aggressive. In fact, there are no records of these sharks ever attacking a human. Sand tiger sharks are common in the lower portion of Chesapeake Bay during the summer and fall and hunt at night along the ocean floor.

4. Smooth Dogfish Shark

smooth dogfish shark

The smooth dogfish shark typically lives in ocean waters less than 60 feet deep.

©Rafeed Hussain/Shutterstock.com

The smooth dogfish shark is commonly found in the lower portion of Chesapeake Bay, often as far north as the Patuxent River. These sharks only live in the Atlantic Ocean’s coastal waters, usually no deeper than 60 feet. They are called “dogfish” because, unlike many other shark species, they hunt in groups or packs. Smooth dogfish sharks grow to around 5 feet and commonly eat the crabs and other large crustaceans that live along the bottom of the ocean floor.

5. Spiny Dogfish Shark

Spiny dogfish shark, deep - 15 meters, sea of japan, Russia

Spiny dogfish sharks have flat teeth like the smooth dogfish. They also have an extra set of small sharp teeth as well.

©Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock.com

The spiny dogfish shark is also common in the lower Chesapeake Bay. These sharks also travel in schools or packs but are slower swimmers and prefer deeper waters. Spiny dogfish grow between 2.5 and 4 feet long with slender, slate gray bodies. There are also rows of small white dots sprinkled along their backs and sides. Spiny dogfish sharks get their name from the venomous spines found in front of each of their dorsal fins. They use these sharp spines against predators like larger sharks, seals, and killer whales. Although they may sound menacing, spiny dogfish sharks are harmless to humans.

6. Blacktip Shark

Although the two share a name, the blacktip shark and the blacktip

reef shark

are two completely different species.


Blacktip sharks can grow between 6 and 8 feet long with torpedo-shaped bodies, wide eyes, and long pointed snouts. The tips of their dorsal, caudal (tail), and pectoral fins all have black or dark gray tips. Blacktip sharks have large jaws filled with sharp teeth and eat crustaceans and bony fish. However, they are usually docile around humans, and only show aggression when they are hunting or eating. Blacktip sharps live in large schools that are gender-specific (males live with males, and females live with females). Male and female groups join together during mating season.

7. Atlantic Sharp-Nose Shark

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Atlantic Sharp-Nose Sharks are very active swimmers that need lots of space.

©Finley Del/Shutterstock.com

Another small shark near Maryland’s coast and beaches is the Atlantic sharp-nose shark. They grow less than 4 feet in length and eat crabs, shrimp, mollusks, bony fish, and worms. Like their name, Atlantic sharp-nose sharks have streamlined bodies with long, pointy snouts. Their bodies are gray with white spots along the sides and edges of their pectoral fins. Younger sharks may have black coloring on the edges of their dorsal and tail fins instead of white spots.

8. Dusky Shark

Dusky shark

Dusky sharks are nomadic and prefer prey found along the bottom of the ocean floor.

©Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com

When sharing a range with multiple shark species, there are usually far fewer numbers of dusky sharks in the area. Dusky sharks typically live alone and have been known to migrate over 2,000 miles. These sharks often grow around 10 feet long with streamlined bodies and rounded snouts. They are generalist predators that eat a large variety of different marine animals. Unfortunately, dusky sharks are one of the most common species hunted for the shark fin trade, and today they are endangered worldwide.

9. Spinner Shark

Spinner shark jumping over the sea.

Spinner sharks are speedy and agile predators.

©Bram Nieuwenhuis/Shutterstock.com

Spinner sharks have an extremely unique hunting style. These sharks swim quickly through the water while continually spinning like a toy top! Spinner sharks can often be spotted spinning out of the water as they attempt to catch something to eat. Spinner sharks look a lot like blacktip sharks. However, these sharks have black on all their fins (including the anal fin), and they are usually bigger, growing between 6 and 10 feet in length. Spinner sharks are not usually a threat to humans and are listed as a Near-Threatened species by the IUCN.

10. Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)

Scalloped hammerhead sharks have scalloped-shaped indentations along the front of their hammer-like face.

©Ian Scott/Shutterstock.com

Like many hammerhead species, scalloped hammerhead sharks are easy to identify because of their large size and uniquely shaped heads. These sharks can grow up to 11 feet long and weigh up to 335 pounds. Their eyes and nostrils are located on each side of their wide, hammer-shaped snout, which helps them to hunt and locate animals like stingrays hiding near or underneath the sandy sea floor. Although they have been spotted in very shallow, coastal waters, there has never been an official attack caused by these sharks. Scalloped hammerheads have very small mouths, avoid people as much as possible, and are extremely shy. Unfortunately, these sharks are critically endangered.

11. Tiger Shark

Biggest Fish: Tiger Shark

Tiger sharks are named for the dark, vertical stripes found mainly on juveniles that fade and almost disappear as they grow.

©Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

The tiger shark is more aggressive than most of the other shark species along Maryland’s coast. These sharks grow between 10 and 14 feet on average, but there are records of tiger sharks reaching 20-25 feet in length! Juvenile sharks have dark, vertical stripes along the sides of their bodies like a tiger that tend to fade as they get older. Tiger sharks have extremely strong jaws, and sharp serrated teeth, and will eat just about anything from sea snakes and seals to old tires and license plates. Unfortunately, tiger sharks are another victim of overfishing and are now a near-threatened species.

Summary of 11 Sharks Near Maryland’s Coast and Beaches

Here’s a recap of 11 shark species that can be found near the coast and beaches of Maryland:

1Sandbar Shark6-8 ft
2Bull Shark7-13 ft
3Sand Tiger SharkOver 10 ft
4Smooth Dogfish Shark5 ft
5Spiny Dogfish Shark2.5-4 ft
6Blacktip Shark6-8 ft
7Atlantic Sharp-Nose SharkLess than 4 ft
8Dusky SharkAround 10 ft
9Spinner Shark6-10 ft
10Scalloped Hammerhead SharkUp to 11 ft
11Tiger Shark10-14 feet on average but can reach 20-25 ft

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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