Discover The Largest Thresher Shark Ever Caught in Florida

Written by Lev Baker
Published: January 31, 2023
© FtLaud/
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Thresher sharks are known for their long, whip-like tails and are a favorite among Florida fishermen. Imagine reeling in a shark that measures an incredible 20 feet in length. These bad boys are indeed a sight to behold in the open waters. 

But have you ever wondered about the largest thresher shark ever caught in Florida? Well, wonder no more! In this article, we will dive into (pun intended) the details of this impressive catch and explore the world of thresher sharks. So grab your fishing rod, and let’s set sail!

A Quick Introduction To Thresher Sharks

The long tail fin of a thresher shark silhouettes against the surface. The tail is used to stun and kill prey.
The long tail fin of a thresher shark silhouettes against the surface. The tail is used to stun and kill prey.


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The thresher shark, a diverse group of sharks that belong to the family Alopiidae, is comprised of three known species today:

  • Common thresher (Alopias vulpinus)
  • Bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus)
  • Pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus)

These sharks are found in temperate waters worldwide and are a popular game fish for sportsmen in places like California, Florida, and South Africa.

What makes the thresher shark unique is the way it hunts. The shark uses its long tail to herd and disorients its prey, making it easier to capture. The thresher shark is also known to feed on various prey, including fish, squid, and crustaceans.

Despite their fearsome reputation, thresher sharks are not considered to be a significant threat to humans.

Thresher Sharks In Florida

Thresher sharks are known for their elusive nature and preference for open ocean habitats. Unlike other shark species, such as the leopard, dusky, and lemon sharks that can be found closer to shore, adult thresher sharks are typically found in deeper waters.

An impressive thresher shark catch was recorded off the coast of Florida, near the drop-off of the continental shelf. This specimen was a true giant amongst its peers.

Despite their preference for open waters, thresher sharks can be found in warm waters all over the world. They are not as deep-diving as the sperm whale, so while it’s not likely to see a thresher shark while swimming or surfing, chartered boat trips to the open ocean may give you a glimpse of these elusive creatures. And if you’re lucky, you might even witness the incredible sight of a thresher shark breaching out of the water as it hunts.

Thresher Shark Weight, Size, And Lifespan

Bigeye Thresher shark swimming in the Gulfstream in the Atlantic Ocean. This thresher shark has extremely large eyes, adapted to hunt in low-light conditions.
Bigeye Thresher shark swimming in the Gulfstream in the Atlantic Ocean. This thresher shark has extremely large eyes, adapted to hunt in low-light conditions.


Different species of thresher sharks vary in size. Here are some specifics to provide a general understanding.

Thresher Shark SpeciesMaximum LengthDescription
Common thresher20 feetLargest species
Bigeye thresher16 feetSecond largest species
Pelagic thresher10 feetSmallest species

The average weight of a thresher shark is around 350 lbs.

These fierce predators have a unique reproduction process, giving birth to litters of 2-6 pups. However, their growth rate is relatively slow compared to other fish species. Thresher sharks take several years to reach sexual maturity, with the average age being around 8 years old. At this point, they typically measure at least 8 feet in length.

The impressive size of adult thresher sharks, which can reach lengths of up to 20 feet, makes them a spectacular sight for those lucky enough to encounter them. Another fascinating fact is that thresher sharks have a relatively long lifespan, an average of 22 years.

Thresher Shark Behavior

Thresher sharks are known for their elusive and solitary nature, but they are also known for their hunting techniques. These ocean dwellers are known for their migratory and oceanodromous habits. Though they keep to themselves, some species of thresher sharks have been known to hunt in groups of two or three.

When hunting schooling fish, thresher sharks use their elongated tails to “whip” the water, stunning their prey before feeding. They are even known to slice their prey in half before eating.

Thresher sharks possess a variety of captivating behaviors, one of which is their ability to leap from the ocean’s surface by utilizing their elongated tail. This incredible maneuver, known as breaching, also allows them to make sudden turns and twists, much like dolphins.

Thresher Shark Appearance

A pelagic thresher shark, Alopias pelagicus, swims by a coral reef in the Phillipines.
A pelagic thresher shark, Alopias pelagicus, swims by a coral reef in the Phillipines.

©Shane Gross/

Thresher sharks have a very distinctive appearance, so it is easy to recognize them. They have small mouths, big eyes, and large pelvic fins. Their most striking feature, however, is the elongated top lobe of their tail, which is whip-like in appearance. The small anal fins and second dorsal fin are located near their tail.

When it comes to identifying the different species of thresher sharks, the primary color of the dorsal surface of the body can be a helpful indicator. The pelagic thresher is characterized by its blue hues. The bigeye thresher is typically brown, and the common thresher has a dark green coloration.

Thresher Shark Conservation Status

The decline of shark populations globally has been a cause of concern in recent decades, with some species experiencing a drop of over 90%. Thresher sharks are among the species that are particularly vulnerable to such depredation. They are now listed as vulnerable to extinction due to various human-induced threats such as bycatch, pollution, overfishing, and even the shark fin soup industry.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to protect these species, millions of sharks are still killed each year. If immediate action is not taken, they may soon disappear from our oceans altogether.

One of the main reasons for the vulnerability of thresher sharks is their slow reproduction rate, which makes them susceptible to overfishing. Human activities such as fishing for their fins, liver, skin, and meat, all of which have high commercial value, have had a significant impact on their population.

Additionally, the skin of these sharks is used to make high-quality leather, which further drives the demand for them. Pollution and climate change have also played a role in their decline, both directly and indirectly.

Do Thresher Sharks Attack Humans?

Thresher sharks have an elusive and shy nature. According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) maintained by Florida Museum, there has never been a recorded instance of a thresher shark attacking a human.

These species of shark do not visit the coastal areas where humans often swim and are known to be evasive when approached by people out at sea.

While thresher sharks may not be the most accessible shark species to encounter while swimming or diving, it’s reassuring to know that they are not considered a threat to human safety.

In contrast, the so-called “big three” shark species known for attacks on humans are the great white, tiger, and bull sharks.

The Largest Thresher Shark Ever Caught In Florida

In 1984, a record-breaking thresher shark was caught off the coast of Destin, Florida. This massive creature weighed an impressive 544 pounds and 8 ounces, though its length remains a mystery.

But this record was shattered in 2011 when an accomplished fisherman in Florida reeled in a truly colossal thresher shark. This individual measured a staggering 13.5 feet in length and weighed 650 pounds. It’s not common for thresher sharks to venture near shore, making this catch all the more remarkable as it was several miles offshore.

The Largest Thresher Shark Ever Caught

A fisherman named Roger Nowell caught a particularly large thresher shark off the coast of Cornwall, UK near the Lands End peninsula, which stood out among others of its kind. This massive thresher shark was estimated to be a jaw-dropping 32 feet in length and weighed a staggering 1,250 pounds.

While this specimen was certainly impressive, it was a bittersweet moment for both the fisherman and shark conservationists. According to media reports, the shark did not survive for long after being caught and was ultimately auctioned off in 2007.

It should be noted that this shark didn’t qualify as the official record catch from the IGFA. They list a 767-pound thresher caught in New Zealand in 1983 as their record catch. Sharks must be caught with specific gear and measurement standards to qualify for IGFA records.

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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. My two biggest loves in the world are music and animals. I have even gone on to start my own personal blog called Frontman Philosophy. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

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