Blacktip Sharks are numerous around Key West and are fun because they fight hard and sometimes leap out of the water when hooked.
Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)
(Florida Record 152lbs.) Blacktip Sharks are related to the Blue Shark, Bull Shark, and Tiger Shark. The Blacktip Shark has a stout body, a pointed snout, relatively small eyes, and 5 pairs of long gill slits. The coloration is dark gray/blue to brown on the back and sides, with a white belly and a distinct white band across the flank. The dorsal fin of the Blacktip is tall, and the pectoral fins are long and pointed. On most individuals, the tips and edges of the fins are black. These sharks usually grow to around 5 feet long, although the longest known specimen was 9 feet long. The maximum recorded weight for a Blacktip was 271 pounds.
Blacktip Shark Habitat and Behavior
Blacktips are common in coastal tropical waters around the world and may be found near shore around river mouths, bays, mangrove swamps, and in other estuaries. They can tolerate brackish and freshwater, but do not penetrate far into freshwater. Blacktips are not an oceanic shark – they prefer waters of about 100 feet or less and when found in deep water, usually stay in the top 100 feet of the water column. During their seasonal migration in the western Atlantic, Blacktips range from Nova Scotia to Brazil, but they are most abundant in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Blacktip Sharks should not be confused with the Blacktip Reef Shark – they are two different species.
Blacktip Sharks are very fast and energetic, and they are known to make spinning leaps out of the water when feeding. It is thought that they spin while passing vertically at high speed through schools of fish near the surface. Their momentum then causes them to break into the air when they reach the surface. Blacktip Sharks feed on a wide variety of small schooling fishes like anchovies, herring, menhaden, mullet, and sardines, but they also eat many other types of fishes as well as other small sharks, dogfish, skates, and stingrays, and sometimes crustaceans and squids.
Female Blacktips bear 1-10 live young every other year, and they are capable of asexual reproduction in the absence of males. Young Blacktip Sharks spend the first months of their lives in shallow nursery waters, and grown females will return to the same nurseries where they were born to give birth. Blacktips form schools composed of individuals of varying size, and they are said to have a timid demeanor as compared to other large requiem sharks. They become excited and aggressive in the presence of food, and this is thought to contribute to their occasional attacks on humans, which usually result in only minor injuries.
Fishing for Blacktip Shark
Blacktip Sharks are numerous in Key West waters and are a lot of fun to catch because they are hard fighters and will sometimes leap out of the water when hooked. They can be found over the reefs, on wrecks, and in the shallows. Fishing on the mudflats where mullets feed can be productive, and Blacktips also like the deeper channels where baitfish schools are found. They can be caught at the surface over wrecks when they are schooling with baitfish. Live bait and chunk bait work well, and they can be caught on flies and lures too. No matter how you catch a Blacktip Shark, expect a long hard fight followed by some good photo opportunities.