Florida is home to approximately 15 species of shark and is at the top regarding shark attacks. Great white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks – the most aggressive shark species in the world have been spotted around Florida!
Great white sharks are the first on this list, but, fortunately, they rarely come near the shoreline and haven’t been involved in many attacks. But how large are Florida’s great whites? Did anyone catch one in the nearby waters? Let’s find out!
What is a great white shark?
Great white sharks are also called great whites, white sharks, or white pointers. They are mackerel sharks, scientifically called Carcharodon carcharias. White pointers live in offshore and coastal waters. They are common in Japan, South Africa, Oceania, the United States, and Florida. These aquatic animals were involved in more than 300 recorded shark attacks worldwide, making them the most aggressive shark species, followed by tiger sharks and bull sharks.
White sharks are big species that can grow as large as 20 feet and weigh as much as 4,200-5,000 pounds. Their unique characteristic is that white pointers can have up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth throughout their lives. They are arranged in rows and “renew” themselves once in a while. A white pointer’s lifespan is more than 70 years.
Great whites are apex predators. These sharks have a white underside and a gray-black color on top. Their appearance aids them in catching prey because they are easily camouflaged in the water. If seen from above, they blend with the depths of the water, and if seen from below, they blend with the light from above the water. This way, it’s difficult for the prey to spot the predator. A white shark’s prey includes other sharks, seabirds, mollusks, and crustaceans.
Even though these sharks are apex predators, they can be caught and killed by orcas, also called killer whales, the largest fish in the world. Small and juvenile white sharks are at a higher risk of becoming prey to orcas.
Do great whites swim in Florida?
Great whites are rarely seen in Florida. The most common shark species living in Florida are:
- Lemon sharks;
- Tiger sharks;
- Great hammerhead sharks;
- Bull sharks;
- Caribbean reef sharks;
- Nurse sharks;
- Sandbar sharks;
- Silky sharks;
- Dusky sharks.
Several sources say that great white sharks come to the coast of Florida during winter. Scientists came to this conclusion in February 2020, after OCEARCH, a non-profit organization, received “pings” of great whites coming to the surface of the waters near Florida. In short, when tagged sharks come above water, their tags send a satellite signal which records the time and places they surfaced. Some sharks tracked by OCEARCH that appeared near Florida included Nova, a male shark measuring 11 feet, 6 inches, and Brunswick, a smaller male measuring 8 feet, 9 inches.
Nobody knows if sharks have only recently started coming to Florida or if they’ve been living around the place all along but were never officially spotted. The fact that they prefer living in deep waters might be why they rarely approach the shoreline.
What is the largest great white shark caught off Florida?
A large great white shark was caught off Florida in March 2021. A specialized fishing charter caught a 12-foot shark weighing approximately 1,200 pounds. Shortly after, the anglers released the shark back into the water.
The largest and most recent great white shark spotted off Florida is named Scot. It’s an OCEARCH-tracked great white shark spotted off Florida’s Gulf coast on March 24, 2022. It measures 12.3 feet and weighs 1,644 pounds. OCEARCH named it after the people of Nova Scotia. It became the 74th white pointer tagged, sampled, and released by the non-profit organization.
Official records say that the biggest shark caught in Florida weighed 686 pounds. It was collected by angler Richard P. DeAngelis offshore of Key West on April 30, 1988.
What is the largest great white shark on record?
A female great white shark named Deep Blue was spotted in the 1990s and is considered the largest great white on record. It measures approximately 20-21 feet long, 8 feet high, and weighs around 5,000 pounds. It was captured on video only in 2013 by Mauricio Hoyos Padilla, who found her near the Island of Guadalupe.
Since then, several other large white sharks have been spotted worldwide. The shark known as White Death is close to Deep Blue’s size, but scientists haven’t produced an exact length. Another is the female Nukumi, measuring over 17 feet long.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to state that these are the largest great white sharks on record because we’ll never know what lurks in the waters. But at least this information helps establish an approximate record.
Can a great white shark attack you in Florida?
The likelihood of great white sharks attacking people in Florida is very low. Over the years, great whites were involved in only about three shark attacks in Florida. Compared to the tiger or bull shark attacks, this number is insignificant. You shouldn’t be too concerned about stumbling upon a great white.
Still, because all three of the most aggressive species (great white, tiger, and bull) live in the area, it is highly advisable not to go too deep into the water and to keep an eye on the surroundings.
10 largest sharks caught off Florida
|1||Tiger shark||Galeocerdo cuvier||1,065 pounds||Richard Baggs||June 20, 1981|
|2||Hammerhead shark||Sphyrnidae||1,060 pounds||Bucky Dennis||May 5, 2009|
|3||Mako shark||Isurus spp.||911 pounds 12 ounces||Audrey Cohen||April 9, 1962|
|4||Dusky shark||Carcharhinus obscurus||764 pounds||Warren Girle||May 28, 1982|
|5||White shark||Carcharodon carcharias||686 pounds||Richard P. DeAngelis||April 30, 1988|
|6||Thresher shark||Alopias spp.||544 pounds 8 ounces||James Weil||September 15, 1984|
|7||Bull shark||Carcharhinus leucas||517 pounds||Gregory K. Burnett||October 1981|
|8||Lemon shark||Negaprion brevirostris||397 pounds||Richard M. Guccione||April 29, 1977|
|9||Spinner shark||Carcharhinus brevipinna||190 pounds||Mrs. Gladys Prior||April 3, 1986|
|10||Blacktip shark||Carcharhinus limbatus||152 pounds||Darlene Rees||October 29, 1987|
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What sharks can grow bigger than great whites?
While the largest great whites can reach up to 5,000 pounds, several sharks can grow to be bigger than your average great white shark. Examples include whale sharks, basking sharks, prehistoric sharks like Megalodon, megamouth sharks, Pacific sleeper sharks, and thresher sharks.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.