Spying the Dusky Shark in Florida Waters

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

Learn more about the elusive, beautiful and formidable dusky shark that you may encounter on your next fishing trip.

Spend enough time in Florida waters, and you're sure to encounter a shark or two. Florida fishermen generally respect and admire these stealthy fish slipping in and out of their favorite fishing holes. And, since good fishermen are even better conservationists, most know how important these predators are to the state's oceans.

Reaching lengths of 14 feet and weighing as much as 700 pounds, the dusky shark can certainly be considered formidable. Because this sleek, gray shark is at the top of the food chain, its greatest threat comes from humans. Prized for its meat, oil and fins (used for shark fin soup), the dusky shark has been labeled as "Near Threatened" by the International Union of Conservation for Nature. This shark's slow growth – they reach maturity around 20 years old – only increases its vulnerability. Shark populations off the east coast have declined considerably since the 1970s.Though they were once considered a desired trophy shark, wise fishermen today understand the importance of protecting this threatened species from overfishing and exploitation.

Migratory and found in many, many different regions world-wide, the dusky shark is not a picky eater. Known to consume everything from bluefish to reef fish and almost anything in between, these aloof hunters are opportunists, happily consuming the pelagic fish that cross their path. While larger sharks have been known to consume prey like sea turtles, dusky sharks aren't considered particularly dangerous to humans.

More likely to avoid people than seek them out, dusky sharks are like so many other ocean creatures: more beautiful than fearsome, and more reclusive than threatening. The dusky shark is certainly worthy of admiration – from a good distance, of course.

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