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Recreational Shark Fishing—Healthy Catch & Release

Meet Our Scientists and Learn About Their Research to Help Sustain Healthy Recreational Shark Fisheries

Craig Heberer, Shark Biologist

As the popularity of recreational sport fishing of thresher sharks is rising, biologists at NOAA and PIER teamed up to study survival rates. The goal: to offer up best fishing practices to recreational anglers in an effort to keep the thresher shark population healthy. To learn more, watch the video: Sustainable Sport Fishing for Thresher Sharks Exit

John Carlson, Fisheries Biologist

NOAA scientists are working cooperatively with shark fishermen to study survival rates of sharks after being hooked with J-hooks versus circle hooks. The data being collected will reveal whether the released sharks survive or die soon after being released. To learn more, listen to the podcast: Hooked on Sharks

Get the “Release Mako” App and Report Your Shortfin Mako Releases

Shark anglers on the East coast are helping NOAA scientists studying the life history of the shortfin mako shark. By knowing the locations of released sharks, scientists learn about their movement, distribution, and migration patterns—all of which contribute to management decisions about the species including recreational catch limits.

This free "Release Mako" mobile app allows you to report your live releases of shortfin mako sharks from your Apple or Android devices while still out on the water. It also includes information about the shortfin mako stock status, fishing regulations, FAQs, and safe handling and release guidelines.

Shark fishing has long been a popular activity in the waters off our coasts. In 2011, nearly 2.7 million sharks were caught recreationally by anglers in the U.S.

This is a big number, but there’s good news. Many recreational shark fishermen are moving toward the practice of catch and release—about 96 percent of sharks recreationally caught in the U.S. are now released back into the ocean. In addition, many shark fishing tournaments have become catch and release for those anglers who wish to preserve the sharks, but still get the thrill and reward of a big catch.

The most important aspect of catch and release fishing is how the shark is caught, handled, and released. If proper techniques and guidelines are not followed, the shark may become injured or overly stressed and when released, may not survive. For better survival of released sharks, anglers need the right mix of gear and techniques—because what you fish with and how you fish can make all the difference in whether a released shark will live or die.

Recent studies by NOAA Fisheries' scientists in Southern California have shown that the use of circle hooks rather than J-hooks greatly increases a shark’s chances of survival after release. Since circle hooks usually embed in the corner of a shark’s jaw rather than in its throat or stomach, they are much less likely to cause life-threatening injuries.

Other fishing techniques such as minimizing fight times and keeping sharks in the water while removing tackle also help to increase survival rates.

Before your next fishing trip, watch the video below which highlights best fishing practices for healthy catch and release of sharks. Utilizing these tips and techniques will help you fish better and smarter, and help release healthy sharks back into our oceans. Exit

And for more videos about shark science, conservation and management, visit NOAA Fisheries' YouTube channel.