Discover the Largest Mako Shark Ever Caught Off Florida

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: August 5, 2022
Image Credit Xavier ELIAS Photography/Shutterstock.com
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There are two species of mako shark: the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the longfin mako (Isurus paucus). Both are commonly known as mako sharks, blue pointers, or bonito sharks. Longfin makos grow up to 14 feet long, while shortfin makos grow up to 13 feet long.

Mako sharks around the world are in danger of extinction due to overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification, and the demand for shark fin soup. Here, we’ll discover the largest mako ever caught off Florida. We’ll also find out a little more about this incredible fish, and why they need our protection. Then, we’ll take a look at what it will take to conserve these apex predators for future generations of sports fishermen.

Mako Shark: Background

The mako shark is one of the fastest fish, and it is considered dangerous to humans because of its speed — it can attack aggressively and quickly. It has even been known to "jump" into fishing boats!
Mako sharks have long, slender, torpedo-shaped bodies.

wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

The word ‘mako’ comes from the Maori language of New Zealand. Mako sharks are common visitors to Australia, New Zealand, and both the east and west coasts of the United States, among many other locales. They’re large mackerel sharks, like great whites and salmon sharks. Like great whites, makos are ambush hunters who prey largely on bony fish squid, and octopus. However, makos are actually much faster than great whites. In fact, they’re the fastest sharks in the world.

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Let’s take a closer look at the mako shark.

Size and Appearance

Mako sharks are large species of predatory fish. Their long, slender bodies are streamlined for fast swimming. They’re so well built for speed that they can easily outswim the much bulkier great whites and tiger sharks. Their sides and backs are dark gray, with white undersides. Shortfin makos have short pectoral fins, while longfin makos have distinctively long pectoral fins.

Unlike great whites, which have serrated teeth meant for shearing flesh, mako sharks have long, pointed teeth. Anyone that has ever seen the inside of a mako shark’s mouth can attest to the wicked-looking nature of their teeth, but, rest assured: they’re not meant for hunting humans. Mako’s teeth are actually designed specifically to hold onto slippery prey, like fish.

The average mako shark grows to about ten feet long and may weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Very large specimens occasionally grow to over 12 feet long, and occasionally weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Keep reading to find out just how big the largest mako shark ever caught off Florida truly is.

Range and Habitat

A diver swimming with a Shortfin mako shark. These sharks are aggressive predators and should be avoided if possible.
Mako sharks are found in all of the world’s tropical and subtropical oceans.

wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

The largest mako shark ever caught off Florida lived in the warm, offshore waters of the coast. Mako sharks are pelagic, which means they live and hunt anywhere from just below the ocean’s surface up to 500 feet deep. They live only in water warmer than 61 degrees Fahrenheit, and spend a lot of time traveling for food and mates. They may hunt close to shore, or in the open ocean.

Diet and Behavior

Mako sharks eat mostly bony fish like swordfish, bonito, tuna, and mackerel. They also eat cephalopods like squid, octopus, and nautilus. Their incredible speed means makes them excellent hunters; makos can even take down other sharks, seabirds, dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles. Because they’re so active, they actually have to eat much more than other, more sedentary, species of sharks.

The Largest Mako Ever Caught Off Florida

Fastest Sea Animal: Mako Shark
The largest mako shark caught off Florida weighed around 911 lbs!

Al McGlashan/Shutterstock.com

According to the International Game Fish Association, the largest mako ever caught off Florida was killed in 1962. The shark weighed 911 lb 12 oz, though the IGFA does not list its total length. The record-setting mako was fished in the waters of Palm Beach, Florida, and is among the largest mako sharks ever recorded. According to the IGFA records, only three other sharks weighing more than the Florida mako record shark have ever been reliably recorded. These were caught in Chatham, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Montauk, New York.

What is the Largest Mako Ever Recorded?

According to the IGFA’s records, the largest mako shark ever fished was killed in 2001 in Chatham, Massachusetts. The shark reportedly weighed 1,221 pounds. Unofficially, a mako shark fished in California in 2013 reportedly broke the Chatham record. The California mako weighed 1,323.5 pounds. However, the IGFA still lists the Chatham mako shark as the largest mako ever fished.

Are Mako Sharks Endangered?

Fastest Water Animals
Mako sharks are endangered.

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

Unfortunately for sport fishers, mako sharks, like many other sharks, are now listed as Endangered. Shark populations have declined by as much as 90% in recent decades due to overfishing, pollution, bycatch death, the demand for shark fins, and ocean acidification. In fact, as of July 5th, 2022, it is illegal to fish Atlantic shortfin makos until their population has sufficiently recovered.

Why Sharks are Important

Sharks are both apex predators and keystone species. Being a keystone species means that the health of the entire marine ecosystem rests squarely on the shoulders (or fins) of sharks like the mako shark. Without sharks, oceanic food webs and food chains would be disrupted, with disastrous ecological results. That’s why, today, it’s important to act to conserve all sharks, including mako sharks. 

One of the first steps you can take in shark conservation is educating yourself. By learning about sharks, you can reduce the negative stigma and fear that surrounds them. Further, take steps to reduce your environmental impact, such as reducing the amount of single-use plastics (grocery bags, straws, etc) you use. Choose sustainable seafood options, and educate yourself about the shark fin soup industry.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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