14 Incredible Sharks in Washington State Waters

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: October 10, 2022
Image Credit Stefan Pircher/Shutterstock.com
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Washington is the 18th-largest and northwesternmost state in the US. The western part of the state opens to the Pacific Ocean, a diverse area in terms of flora and fauna. But what about predators?

There are 500 different species of sharks roaming the planet’s oceans. Out of these, 30 species can be found in Washington State waters. The species present there are quite varied, especially in size.

Fortunately, this article will only introduce you to some incredible sharks in Washington State waters. Only usual caution is advised, as only two shark attacks have been recorded in the area – both non-fatal. 

Are there any sharks in Washington State?

Reef shark headbutts diver
According to the Shark Foundation, Washington State waters are home to 30 shark species.

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According to the Shark Foundation, Washington State waters are home to 30 shark species. Most species do not represent a danger to humans and swimmers, although caution is advised when exploring the ocean. 

Sharks here are classified as primary predators, small, middle-class, gentle giants, and strangely shaped sharks. In the following lines, we introduce you to 14 incredible sharks in Washington State waters!

1. Great white shark

Strongest animal bite – great white shark
The great white shark is the only (known) surviving species of the Carcharodon genus.

Ramon Carretero/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
20 feet (6.1 m)2.4 inches (6 cm) Highly aggressiveLargest-known extant macro predatory fish worldwide

The great white shark is a species of mackerel shark. The species is one of the longest-living cartilaginous fishes, with a lifespan of over 70 years. It can be found in coastal surface waters worldwide.

A great white shark has an average swimming speed of 16 mph (25 km/hr). As an apex predator, it has no natural predators. Only orcas are sometimes brave enough to hunt down great whites.

The great white shark is the only (known) surviving species of the Carcharodon genus. It is responsible for most human bite incidents amongst sharks worldwide.

2. Tiger shark

What do tiger sharks eat - feeding a tiger shark
The tiger shark has the most recorded fatal attacks on humans worldwide after the great white shark.

Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
16.4 feet (5 m)1 inch (2.54 cm)Curious and aggressiveWidest food spectrum of all sharks

The tiger shark is a requiem shark – migratory, live-bearing, and living in warm seas. It was named tiger due to the dark stripes found on its lower body – they resemble the pattern of a tiger. The pattern fades, however, as the shark matures.

Even though the tiger shark is another apex predator, killer whale groups are known to hunt this species from time to time.

The tiger shark has the most recorded fatal attacks on humans worldwide after the great white shark. Despite that, it is still a near-threatened species, mainly due to fishing and finning.

3. Salmon shark

The rare and elusive Salmon Shark, in the open ocean of Alaska.
Salmon sharks are not currently being fished commercially.

Warren Metcalf/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
6.6-8.6 feet (2-2.6 m)Not measuredAggressiveAbility to maintain stomach temperature (homeothermy)

The salmon shark can be found predominantly in the northern part of the Pacific ocean – right around Washington State. The species is known for its ability to regulate its body temperature. As a result, salmon sharks can live and thrive in cold waters. 

As the name implies, the species feeds mainly on salmon, herring, sablefish, and squid

Salmon sharks are not currently being fished commercially. In fact, it is known that fishers often discard them. In Miyagi, a city in Japan, however, salmon shark heart is considered a delicacy and is used to prepare sashimi.

4. Dusky shark

Dusky shark
The dusky shark is one of the largest members of the Carcharhinus genus.

Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
14 feet (4.2 m)1 inch (2.54 cm)Not typically aggressiveCan eat up to a tenth of their weight in a single sitting

The dusky shark is one of the largest members of the Carcharhinus genus. It has a varied diet, eating everything from sea turtles to sea stars, bony fish, rays, sharks, and even garbage. Dusky sharks are known for their slow-growing and maturing process. Such a shark reaches adulthood after 20 years!

One distinctive feature of dusky sharks is their short-rounded snout. The species is now considered endangered as commercial fisheries use it to make shark fin soup (a delicacy) and harvest it for skin, meat, and precious liver oil.

5. Spiny dogfish

Spiny dogfish shark Deep - 15 meters Japan sea Russia
Spiny dogfish can be easily recognized by their two spines and the lack of an anal fin.

Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
1.9 – 2.7 feet (60-80 cm)Generally smallAggressiveDorsal fins secrete a mild venom

Also known as spurdog or mud shark, this is the best-known species of the dogfish family. Spiny dogfish sharks can be easily recognized by their two spines and the lack of an anal fin. An interesting fact is that specimens found in the northern part of the Pacific were reevaluated and now constitute a separate species – the Pacific spiny dogfish.

Even though small, spiny dogfish sharks can be incredible predators. This is because this species often hunts in packs. This aspect wouldn’t be an issue to other marine animals and people – if these packs didn’t consist of hundreds, even thousands of specimens.

6. Catshark

Catsharks reproduce by laying eggs.

iStock.com/atese

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
31 inches (80 cm) – most speciesGenerally smallNot aggressivePatterned appearance

Catsharks are bottom dwellers; they reproduce by laying eggs. This must be mentioned as the species was previously named dogfish, but actual dogfish have live young offspring. The species is not harmful to humans, mainly because it dwells on the bottom of the ocean.

Various catshark species can be found on the bottom of Washington State waters. Divers might encounter them if they venture that deep. If they do, they might encounter the chain catshark, a species of this family that is biofluorescent.

7. Leopard shark

Leopard Shark swimming in kelp bed
A leopard shark’s diet consists of shrimp, bony fish, clams, crabs, and fish eggs.

Barbara Ash/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
3.9 – 4.9 feet (1.2-1.5m)Short, flat teethNot aggressiveBlack saddle-like markings pattern

The leopard shark is known for its black saddle-like pattern and large spots that can be seen on its back. They are the reason behind its common name. The species’ diet consists of shrimp, bony fish, clams, crabs, and fish eggs.

This species poses no danger to humans. The only attack ever recorded on humans resulted in a nosebleed on the diver’s part. You might not get to interact with one, as leopard sharks flee quickly.

8. Sand tiger shark

A giant sand tiger shark swims in a cave.
Sand tiger sharks can be found in Japan, South Africa, Australia, and North and South America.

Stefan Pircher/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
10.5 feet (3.2 m)1 inch (2.54 cm)Not aggressiveCan gulp air from the surface, suspending itself in the water column

The sand tiger shark lives on sandy shorelines, often in submerged reefs as deep as 627 feet (191 m). The species can be found worldwide in Japan, South Africa, Australia, and North and South America. It is not related to the tiger shark.

There are no confirmed human fatalities related to the sand tiger shark. This is because the species moves slowly and is known as relatively placid.

9. Blacktip shark

Most aggressive sharks - blacktip shark
Blacktip sharks can move as fast as 21 feet per second.

Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
4.9 feet (1.5 m)Not measuredSlightly aggressiveEngage in spinning leaps out of the water when hunting

The blacktip shark is known for its pointed snout, fusiform body, and long gill slits. The edges of its caudal, dorsal, pectoral, or pelvic fins can feature black tips, hence the name of the species.

Blacktip sharks are known for engaging in spinning leaps out of the water, used to hunt schools of small fish or to dislodge sharksuckers. These sharks are extremely fast; before jumping out of the water, they can move as fast as 21 feet per second (6.3 m/s).

10. Blue shark

Though not aggressive, blue sharks are one of the fastest fish and sometimes referred to as the "wolves of the sea," perhaps because they travel at such high speeds.
Blue sharks are also known as great blue sharks.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
10 feet (3.1 m)Sharp, medium-sizedNot aggressiveUnique sense of smell

Also known as great blue sharks, the species lives in deep waters and prefers cooler waters. Even though the species can hunt larger prey, their diet consists mainly of squid and small fish.

They are known to migrate long distances. Specimens found in New England can also be found in South America. 

Blue sharks are known for their large litter. Females can give birth to as few as 25 or more than 100 pups.

11. Basking shark

Biggest Shark: Basking Shark
The basking shark is the second-largest living fish and shark worldwide.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
26 feet (7.9 m)0.25 inches (0.6 cm)Not aggressiveSecond-largest living fish

The basking shark is the second-largest living fish and shark worldwide – it stands behind the whale shark. Despite its size, the species is a filter feeder, meaning that it feeds on plankton by filtering water rather than hunting down large species of marine life.

It was named like this due to the fact that it feeds at the surface – seemingly basking in warm water. As a filter feeder, the basking shark doesn’t have much use for its teeth. Its mouth is equipped with several rows of teeth – one row can have up to 100 teeth. However, it is very small – 0.25 inches (0.6 cm) long.

12. Smooth hammerhead shark

smooth hammerhead shark
The smooth hammerhead shark is known for forming schools that range up to thousands of specimens.

Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
16 feet (5 m)Sharp, average sizePotentially dangerousCan form schools numbering thousands of individuals

The smooth hammerhead shark is the second-largest of the hammerhead species. It is called smooth because its head is flattened and extended into a hammer shape. The shark is known for forming schools that range up to thousands of specimens.

Its diet consists mainly of invertebrates and bony fishes. Larger specimens, however, often hunt rays and other sharks as well.

13. Thresher shark

Biggest Shark: Thresher
Thresher sharks are commonly hunted for meat, skin, fins, and liver.

Shane Gross/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
20 feet (6.1 m) – common thresher16 feet (4.9 m) – bigeye thresher10 feet (3 m) – pelagic thresher2 inches (4 cm) – in the case of large specimensAggressive (common thresher)Exceptionally long tail that is often used to stun prey

Thresher refers to species of mackerel sharks that are listed as vulnerable to extinction. All three extant species of thresher shark are known as sport fish and are commonly hunted for meat, skin, fins, and liver.

The name thresher is given by the species’ distinctive caudal fin that resembles a tail and can be as long as the thresher shark specimen.

14. Pacific angel shark

angel shark
The Pacific angel shark has a flattened body and enlarged pelvic and pectoral fins.

LuisMiguelEstevez/Shutterstock.com

SizeTooth lengthNatureIncredible Feature
4.9 feet (1.5 m)Short, sharp teethNot aggressive unless provokedCan remain concealed for up to 10 days, waiting for prey

The Pacific angel shark has a flattened body and enlarged pelvic and pectoral fins. It is known as an ambush predator. Pacific angel sharks conceal on the seafloor, using sand and their natural camouflage, and wait for prey. This species can stay still for days, concealed in their ambush site. Its diet consists mainly of squid and bony fish.

Friendly Great White shark
Great White Shark frontal / curious white shark swims to the divers in the cage.
Stefan Pircher/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on real estate, nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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