Blacktip sharks are common sharks off the coast of Florida and can be seen showboating by leaping out of the water and spinning around, like spinner sharks. They also often swim in large schools during migration when they travel from the waters around Florida up the coast. Blacktips are fished for their hides, flesh, fins, and liver, making them one of the most frequently fished sharks in the commercial industry. Great white sharks can get to 20 feet, but how big are blacktips? Let’s discover the largest blacktip ever caught in Florida!
Background on Blacktip Sharks
Blacktip sharks look like traditional sharks with gray skin and a dorsal fin that pops out of the water when it skims the surface. They have a rounded snout and long tail fin. The most distinguishing feature is the black-colored tips of their fins (thus the name blacktip shark). Blacktips have some of the same behavioral traits as spinner sharks. They jump out of the water and spin around, but spinner sharks are universal gray without the black markings. An average blacktip shark is 5-6 feet long. They weigh around 150 pounds, but some can get a bit larger.
How large is the largest blacktip caught off Florida?
The largest blacktip caught off Florida was 152 pounds on October 29, 1987. Darlene Reese reeled in this good-sized blacktip off the shores of Sebastian, FL, which is on the Atlantic coast, about halfway between Daytona Beach and West Palm Beach. If an average 20-year-old man was swimming next to this blacktip, they would be similar in size. The average man in the United States is 5 feet 9 inches and weighs around 198 pounds.
How large is the largest blacktip in the world?
The largest blacktip ever caught in the world was a 270lbs 9oz shark caught off the coast of Kenya in Malindi Bay. On September 21, 1984, Jurgen Oeder reeled in a massive shark, 100+ pounds heavier than the Florida record. Oeder (now 69 years old) holds 3 IGFA records and has written about his fishing adventures as an author and journalist.
Besides the blacktip shark record, he holds two line-class records (based on the weight of his line) for bluefish. Bluefish are not nearly as large as blacktips. His record bluefish at the 4lb line class with a 20lbs 8oz. With the 8lb line class, he caught a 20-pounder off the coast of Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal. He must have been on a lucky streak because both fish were caught the same week—the 20-pounder on July 5, 1995, followed by the 20lb 8oz one two days later. Bluefish rarely get larger than 20 pounds, so he definitely caught some at the far end of the spectrum.
What other blacktip records are held in Florida?
Several other line-class world records have been made off the coast of Florida, including a 120lbs 12 oz blacktip caught with an 80lb line by Wally Baines off of Jacksonville, Florida. Baines caught this shark on September 30, 2012, just two months after breaking the record for a blacktip in the 50lb line class. That one weighed 118lbs 12 oz, just two pounds lighter on a 50lb line! He also once held the world record for the longest Bonnethead shark, but that record has been broken. The 99cm (3.4 foot) Bonnethead was also caught off Jacksonville beach, but this one was caught the following spring, in May of 2013.
What about Junior and Small Fry records in Florida?
The IGFA has categories for Junior anglers (ages 11-16) and Small Frys (ages 10 and under). Florida holds 3 of the 4 top records for blacktips in the Junior and Small Fry categories. Jake Eicher reeled in a 96lb 10oz (maybe the same weight as him?) blacktip on April 20, 2008, to break the Junior record (male). This same catch qualified in the adult division as the largest blacktip caught on a 30lb line! He caught it off Marathon, which is out in the Florida Keys.
In the Small Fry division for the boys, Hunter Naeve caught a 59lb 15oz (almost a 60 pounder) on June 6, 2015, off the coast of Boca Raton. In the Small Fry division for the girls, Julia Grace Ketner reeled in a 63lb blacktip while fishing in Key West. She set the record on April 13, 2014, and it still stands today. Blacktips aren’t the only fish Julia is good at fishing. When she was 10 years old, she had 24 IGFA records and had 28 records pending! She fishes with her grandpa, Captain Wes Winters, and they have broken several records. Julia is 18 years old today and broke her last record in 2017. She has held 111 total records, with 12 still standing today!
Are blacktip sharks dangerous?
According to the International Shark Attack File, 41 unprovoked shark attacks by blacktips have occurred since 1580, but none were fatal. Since January 1, 2022, there have been 12 recorded shark attacks in Florida, with one of those involving a blacktip. On March 9, 2022, at New Smyrna Beach, a man was fishing in waist-deep water near the 9th Ave Public Beach when he was bitten on the knee and calf. However, the bites were not serious enough to require care at the hospital. In the previous year, 2021, 16 people reported being bitten by a shark in the same area of Volusia County. Blacktip sharks are not overly aggressive, but because they are so common and swim close to shore, there are more human-shark interactions.
Can you imagine hundreds of blacktip sharks swimming together?
Drone footage shows hundreds of blacktip sharks off the shore of Riviera Beach in Palm Beach Shores. As the camera pans out, you can see they are not far offshore. The video even catches one of them leaping out of the water and doing a spin. If you want to catch the next largest blacktip, that might be the place to be. If you want to surf or swim, definitely not the place to be!
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