The 10 Biggest Sharks in Washington State (And Puget Sound)

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: July 23, 2022
Image Credit Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com
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If you’re planning on taking a swim in the waters of the Puget Sound, have no fear. Yes, there are sharks in the Sound, but there has never been a shark attack in the peaceful waters of the Salish Sea. In fact, there have only been two recorded shark attacks (nonfatal) in Washington State waters, and both occurred in Gray’s Harbor, on the west coast. Globally, just about every species of shark out there is at risk of extinction. So, let’s learn about the biggest sharks in Washington State, and how we can conserve them for future generations!

10. Spiny Dogfish

Spiny dogfish shark Deep - 15 meters Japan sea Russia
In scientific terms, the spiny dogfish is known as Squalus acanthias. They live in shallow coastal waters in many parts of the world.

Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock.com

The spiny dogfish might not be the biggest shark in Washington State, but they’re no small fries. These sharks grow up to five feet long, and have light gray, slender bodies. Spiny dogfish are thought to live 70 years or more, and typically live between 150-500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. They’re critically endangered in the north Atlantic, and classified as Vulnerable everywhere else. But don’t worry, you won’t be receiving a bite from a spiny dogfish anytime soon, they don’t attack people.

9. Pacific Angel Shark

angel shark
Squatina californica Despite its scientific name, the Pacific angel shark actually inhabits the western coasts of most of North and South America.

LuisMiguelEstevez/Shutterstock.com

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Pacific angel sharks grow up to seven feet long, though they don’t look like your typical shark. These sharks look closer to stingrays; they have flattened, sand-colored bodies, wide heads, and large pectoral fins with long, thin tails. They’re listed as Near Threatened, and spend most of their time hanging out on the seafloor waiting for prey.

8. Broadnose Sevengill Shark

sharks off the coast of California
Notorynchus cepedianus, the broadnose sevengill shark, gets its name from its seven pairs of gills.

Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

Where most sharks have five gills on either side of their head, the sevengill shark has seven. As some of the biggest sharks in Washington State, these sharks grow up to ten feet long. They’re not found in the Puget Sound, but they are occasionally caught by fishermen off the coast of Washington State in deep ocean waters. Sevengill sharks eat other sharks, fish, porpoises, dolphins, seals, rays, and even carrion. They travel to Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor on Washington’s west coast to have their pups.

7. Salmon Shark

The rare and elusive Salmon Shark, in the open ocean of Alaska.
Lamna ditropis, the salmon shark, are occasionally seen by fishermen off Washington’s west coast.

Warren Metcalf/Shutterstock.com

Salmon sharks are some of the biggest sharks in Washington State. They’re often mistaken for Great Whites; both are mackerel sharks. However, salmon sharks only grow to a maximum length of ten feet, and don’t attack people They eat salmon, spiny dogfish, squid, and any other fish they come across. Salmon sharks live in the coastal waters of Washington State, not in the Puget Sound.

6. Blue Shark

A Blue shark swimming with divers.
The blue shark, otherwise known as Prionace glauca, lives off the coast of western Washington State in open ocean waters. 

Vladislav Klimin/Shutterstock.com

Blue sharks grow up to 13 feet long and can have up to 135 pups at a time. They have long, slender bodies which make them very fast swimmers. They’re found in the oceanic waters off the west coast of Washington State, and almost never in the Puget Sound. Blue sharks eat squid and fish, crab, shrimp, and octopus. They’re almost entirely nocturnal.

5. Pacific Sleeper Shark

A Sleeper Shark in the water
Somniosus pacificus, the Pacific sleeper shark, lives deep below the ocean’s surface, and is rarely seen by humans.

iStock.com/dottedhippo

The Puget Sound is home to one of the biggest sharks in Washington State; the Pacific sleeper shark. They grow up to 14 feet long, though some scientists believe they reach even greater lengths. Pacific sleeper sharks eat fish, shrimp, crab, squid, salmon, and occasionally porpoises or sea lions. They live both in the Puget Sound and off the coast of Washington State, and are often preyed upon by orca whales.

4. Great White

Discover the 10 Most Dangerous Animals in Florida Cover Image
Carcharodon carcharias, the great white shark, makes only the occasional appearance in Washington State waters.

Ramon Carretero/Shutterstock.com

Great white sharks, some of the most impressive apex predators alive today, are some of the biggest sharks in Washington State. They grow up to 16 feet long (with the largest great white reaching more than 20 feet), and eat seals, dolphins, bony fish, and porpoises. Additionally, they’re not found in the Puget Sound, but they do occasionally approach the coastal waters of western Washington. The only two recorded shark attacks in Washington State are attributed to great white sharks. Both attacks occurred in Gray’s Harbor, in the southwest part of the state. 

3. Common Thresher

Longest Tail: The Common Thresher Shark
Alopias vulpinus, the common thresher, inhabits the coastal waters of western Washington State.

Common thresher sharks grow up to 20 feet long, with slender bodies that can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They have extremely long tails that can make up almost half their overall length. These sharks aren’t found in the Puget Sound, but they are occasionally encountered by fishermen off the west coast. Common threshers are currently listed as Vulnerable, as are many of the world’s sharks. They’re aggressive hunters, and eat fish of all varieties.

2. Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

A Sixgill Shark swimming off Vancouver Island, Canada.
The bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus) is also known as a cow shark.

Bluntnose sixgill sharks are some of the biggest sharks in Washington State. They can reach 20 feet long, and usually live between 6,000 and 300 feet deep. Juveniles are fairly common in the Puget Sound, though they don’t attack humans. Adults longer than ten feet live off the coast of Washington State. They eat fish, crab, shrimp, seals, and other sharks. Bluntnose sixgill sharks are only rarely seen by humans.

1. Basking Shark

Basking Shark with mouth open
Cetorhinus maximus, the basking shark, is the second largest extant shark. Only the whale shark tops it in size.

Chris Gotschalk / Public Domain

Basking sharks are the biggest sharks in Washington State. They’re not found in the Puget Sound, but they do visit the waters of coastal Washington. These sharks grow up to 45 feet long. But don’t worry—they don’t attack people. Despite their huge size, basking sharks are filter feeders who eat zooplankton and tiny fish. Additionally, they’re currently in danger of extinction due to overfishing, pollution, and culling for shark fin soup.

Biggest Fish: Basking Shark
A basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, swimming off Coll island, Scotland. Due to their passive temperament, basking sharks have the smallest weight to brain weight ratio of any shark.
Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com
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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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