Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Shark Fishing

Mako shark on Long Island, NY
Shortfin mako shark released off Long Island, NY
Photo Credit: Justin Pellegrino

Shark fishing is popular with recreational and tournament anglers in New York. Before you head out to try your luck at shark fishing, you must first register with the Recreational Marine Fishing Registry and apply for a federal Highly Migratory Species (HMS) permit (link leaves DEC website).

When fishing for sharks, you should be able to identify prohibited shark species and understand the rules associated with these species. For more detailed information about shark species identification, download and review the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Prohibited Shark Identification Placard and the Shark Identification Placard (links leave DEC website).

Prohibited Shark Species Rules

Commonly encountered prohibited shark species found in New York state waters include Sandbar ("Brown"), Dusky, and Sand Tiger sharks. These three species are primarily the only species of large (non-Dogfish) shark anglers will encounter from shore. In New York State waters, it is illegal to take; or possess prohibited shark species. For this reason, the public should not fish for or target prohibited sharks from shore. Other species of prohibited shark found in the NY bight include the White, Basking, Whale, and Atlantic Angel sharks. For a full list of all prohibited shark species, view the Recreational Shark Limits.

Why are Certain Shark Species Prohibited?

Prohibited shark species share unique life history traits. They are generally long lived species which have slow growth, experience an older age at maturity, and produce few offspring. These life history traits leave these species especially vulnerable to the pressures that fishing has on their populations. The prohibited status gives these species the protection they need to maintain and rebuild their populations.

What to do if you Catch a Prohibited Shark

Treat any shark that you cannot identify as prohibited species and release it immediately.

Remember, "If you don't know, let it go."

If you catch a prohibited shark species…

from the shore:

  • NEVER drag a shark onto dry land beyond the surf zone. Sharks caught from shore should be left in as much water as possible while maintaining the safety of the angler and those nearby.
  • Minimize release time. Do not delay release to take pictures.
  • Do not sit on the shark or pull back the snout to reveal the teeth.
  • Keep onlookers in the area well clear of the shark.
  • If the shark is hooked in the jaw, use a long-handled dehooking device to help with hook removal or bolt cutters to cut the hook.
  • If it is not possible to remove the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as safely as the situation allows. Long lengths of leader left with the shark decrease its chance of survival after it is released.
  • Minimize handling. Touching the shark can put yourself and others at risk. It can also remove the shark's protective mucous layer and cause harm to the animal. If you need to handle the shark, use wet hands or a wet towel.

from a boat:

  • Minimize your fight time to prevent lethal exhaustion of the shark.
  • Always keep the shark in the water alongside your boat with its snout facing into the current.
  • Do not use a gaff. Instead hold the shark on the leader while moving the boat slowly ahead.
  • If the shark is hooked in the jaw, use a long-handled dehooking device to help with hook removal or bolt cutters to cut the hook.
  • If it is not possible to remove the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as safely as the situation allows. Long lengths of leader left with the shark decrease its chance of survival after it is released.
  • Before you go fishing, watch NOAA Fisheries video (link leaves DEC website) for more information about handling and release of prohibited shark species from a boat.

Circle Hooks

a J-hook on the left, and a Circle hook on the right
J-hook vs. Circle hook, Photo Credit: NOAA NMFS

When fishing for sharks with baited hooks, you are required to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks.

Non-stainless steel hooks deteriorate over time, reducing harm to a fish if you are unable to retrieve the hook. A circle hook's point is turned back toward the shank, forming a semi-circle shape. A circle hook is more likely to lodge in a shark's mouth instead of its gut. A J-hook is more likely to be swallowed and damage a shark's internal organs.

Ecological Role

Mako Shark attacking some bait
Mako shark, Photo Credit: Chris Paparo

Sharks have been roaming the seas for over 400 million years, predating the dinosaurs! They have survived many mass extinctions, including the event that extinguished the dinosaurs about 6 million years ago. Sharks have survived successfully for so long due to their ability to evolve. As a result, sharks have become the ocean's top predators, also known as apex predators. Most sharks are aggressive apex predators that consume fish, turtles and marine mammals. The exceptions are the whale sharks, the basking sharks and the megamouth sharks, which are all filter feeders that consume plankton.

Apex predators are at the top of the food chain and generally have no natural predators. They play a vital role in maintaining a healthy population of organisms they prey upon. Ecosystems are extremely complex. Even small changes can have significant consequences in a variety of ways. Removing or reducing the population of an apex predator has the potential to upset the population balance of both prey and predators. This can have far-reaching negative consequences throughout the ecosystem.

Sharks had always been the apex predators of the oceans, until humans began refining our ability to harvest marine resources. Technology has improved many aspects of human life, but it has also given us the capacity to over-harvest finite resources.

Shark Fisheries Management

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized a fishery management plan and began managing the U.S. shark fishery in federal waters in 1993. For more information about the federal management of Atlantic Sharks please visit NOAA Fisheries Atlantic Highly Migratory Species page (link leaves DEC website). Coast wide management of sharks in state waters is regulated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Coastal Shark Management Board. ASMFC Approved the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks in 2008. For more information about coast wide shark species management in state waters, please visit the ASMFC's Coastal Sharks webpage (link leaves DEC website).

*Special thanks to all our photograph contributors.* Many organizations who helped us with photographs are conducting exceptional work in shark research and conservation. For more information on how DEC administers permits for research and handling of native New York shark species, visit our Special Licenses Page.


More about Shark Fishing: