Discover the Biggest Shark Ever Caught Off Florida

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: September 20, 2022
© Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com
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Shark fishing, alligator hunting and catching pythons have to be some of the most dangerous hobbies in the world. Complete all three in the “Sunshine State” of Florida. Anglers that catch sharks are usually purposefully trying to catch sharks but occasionally deep sea fishers hoping to snag a mackerel or tuna that end up reeling in a good size shark. How big is a “good sized” shark? Let’s discover the biggest shark ever caught off Florida.

What kind of sharks lives off the coast of Florida?

Tiger Shark
Some sharks prefer to live near the shore and others are only found in deeper waters. There are 10 common sharks off the shores of Florida.

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There are a variety of shark species that live off the coast. Some are common to see near shore while others are only deep-water sharks. Some anglers prefer surf fishing, from shore or from a pier, while others charter boats (or take their own) out into the deeper waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission keep state fishing records for the following sharks:

The Third Biggest Shark

Short fin mako shark swimming just under the surface, about 50 kilometers off the Western Cape coast in South Africa.
The third biggest shark caught off Florida was a mako shark.

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The third biggest shark caught off Florida was a mako shark, caught off West Palm Beach back in 1962. Audrey Cohen caught a mako on April 9, 1962 and she was a feature in the local newspaper with her picture next to the dangling catch. The shark weighed in at 911lbs 12ozs! Her catch beat the world record at the time, held by a 858-pound mako caught off New Zealand in 1951. Her record stands today as the biggest mako shark ever caught in Florida.

Mako sharks are the fastest sharks in the ocean with recorded speeds of 30mph, but some sources quote a top speed of 45mph. Shortfin makos are a tad faster than longfin makos but both are streamline and fast in the water. They are sometimes called sharp-nosed mackerel sharks due to their long pointed snout. Mako’s also have noticeably large black eyes. The largest makos can reach lengths of 14 ½ feet and weigh 1,100lbs or more. Makos are a popular food and game fish and they put up quite a fight.

The Second Biggest Shark

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.
Hammerhead sharks have eyes on the ends of their hammer-shaped head. The biggest one in Florida was 1,060 pounds.

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On May 5, 2009, Captain Bucky Dennis caught a 1,000 pound shark! It was 1,060 pounds to be exact. It was one of the most unique looking sharks, the hammerhead. Their heads are in the shape of the head of a hammer and its eyes are on the sides of its head!

Not the first hammerhead catch by Captain Buckey, but the first one held a lot of controversy. Back in 2006, Dennis fought a huge hammerhead for 5+ hours out in the Gulf of Mexico at the Boca Grande pass, the same place he caught the 1,060 pounder three years later. He finally got it into his boat and brought to shore. Its weight, based on a state-certified truck weigh station scale, was 1,280 pounds! The controversy was that the hammerhead was a female that was pregnant with 55 pups at the time. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch large fish that happen to be pregnant and weigh more, but he got bad press from this catch.

Hammerheads have a few subspecies including scalloped hammerheads and smooth with their head shape being one of the key differences. Although hammer heads have eyes on the sides of their head, they actually have really good eyesight and are accurate at catching their favorite prey, stingrays.

Fishing for hammerheads in Florida is now prohibited and they no longer keep records for hammerheads. Their fins, hide and meat are very valuable in the commercial industry, but conservationists are trying to protect them from overfishing.

What is the biggest shark caught off Florida?

Largest Tiger Shark - tiger shark's distinctive feature
The biggest shark ever caught off Florida was a Tiger shark. It weighed 1,065 pounds!

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The Tiger shark is one of the biggest sharks in the ocean. Great white sharks are the biggest with basking sharks and megamouths coming in behind. The biggest shark ever caught off Florida was a 1,065-pound Tiger shark, only five pounds heavier than the hammerhead caught by Captain Bucky. On June 20, 1981, Richard Baggs snagged the feisty Tiger shark off the coast of Pensacola, which is the northern Gulf of Mexico right near the border of Alabama.

Tiger sharks are easy to identify with their dark gray stripes along their back. They can get to be 14 feet long and weigh as much as 1,400 pounds. Tiger sharks are known to be a more aggressive shark and are responsible for 138 attacks on humans and 36 fatalities, second only to Great white sharks. According to the International Shark Attack File, Florida had the most shark attacks in the US in 2021 with 28. They mention that of the 548 known shark species only 13 have been reported in attacking humans. Tiger sharks are one of them!

Honorable mentions: What other big sharks have been caught off Florida?

Deadliest Animals in America
Great white sharks can get to be 20 feet long and weigh as much as 5,000 pounds!

©iStock.com/Peter_Nile

  • Dusky shark: Dusky sharks have a dusky coloration and are common in Florida. “Duskies” as they call them, can be seen along the shorelines and out in the deeper waters. They can get to be 10-12 feet long and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. The record for the biggest dusky shark in Florida was a 764 pound Duskie pulled from Longboat Key by Warren Girle. He set the record back on May 28, 1982 and it still stands today.
  • Great White: Everybody knows about the Great white shark due to all of the Jaws movies and the hype around “Shark Week”. However the biggest Great white caught off Florida was only 686 pounds. Not a huge shark for a Great white that can get to be 20 feet long and 5,000 pounds! However you have to imagine that Great whites larger than this probably are the “big one that got away”. The record-breaker in Florida was Richard P. DeAngelis, who caught the shark on April 30, 1988 off the coast of Key West.
  • Thresher shark: The biggest thresher shark caught off Florida was 544lbs 8oz off the coast of Destin, FL about 45 miles east of Pensacola. On September 15, 1984, James Weil reeled in the giant Thresher which are known for their long pointed tails. Anglers and prey have to watch out for the fast-action whip tai that they use to stun their prey. Weil must have been an experienced angler to reel in this record-breaker without getting injured.

If you want to catch the next biggest shark off Florida, here is the list of records to break!


The Featured Image

What do tiger sharks eat - feeding a tiger shark
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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".

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the biggest shark caught off the coast of Florida?

The biggest shark ever caught off Florida was a Tiger shark. It weighed 1,065 pounds!

Why isn't the Great White considered one of the biggest catches off of Florida?

Everybody knows about the Great white shark due to all of the Jaws movies and the hype around “Shark Week”. However the biggest Great white caught off Florida was only 686 pounds. Not a huge shark for a Great white that can get to be 20 feet long and 5,000 pounds!

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