Sharks are fascinating creatures! They are all classified as Chondrichthyes, which means they have skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone. Here in Florida we have a number of shark species including Hammerhead, Bull, and Blacktip. In fact, Florida is home to some of the biggest populations of sharks anywhere in the world. At Blue Line Fishing Charters love nothing more than showing you the amazing marine life in and around Cape Coral.
Fun fact – did you know the hammer like head that gives this shark its common name is called a cephalofoil? Scientists believe the head evolved like this to provide the shark with a superior vision range. Their eyes are located at the hammer ends, giving them 360-degree vision in all directions.
If you thought all hammerhead sharks were the same, you thought wrong! There are currently 10 identified species of hammerhead. They range in size from the massive Great Hammerhead down to the small 3 foot long Scalloped Bonnethead.
Hammerheads are found in all the world’s oceans, particularly where there are continental shelves and tropical coastlines with warm water. Some species also inhabit near coastal wetlands and estuarine environments. Sharks are carnivores, with a diet predominantly consisting of fish, octopus, stringrays, other sharks, and crustaceans.
Interestingly, hammerheads only spawn once a year and give birth to litters of live young called pups. Most hammerheads produce litters of 12 to 15 pups but the great hammerhead produces massive litters of 20 to 40 pups. Once born, the young hammerhead pups are on their own. They seek out warmer waters where they’ll stay together as a litter until big enough to survive on their own.
Most hammerhead shark species are now on the IUCN’s lists of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species. Various shark body parts are highly sought after in some parts of the world. Then there is their threat to humans. Issues like these have led to indiscriminate and unregulated killing that has decimated hammerhead populations in many habitats.
Florida has large populations of several endangered species of hammerhead. They are protected from harvest whilst in our state waters.
Sphyrna mokarran, the Great Hammerhead, is the largest of the hammerheads. Adults can reach 20 feet in length, although the average is around 12 feet. They are distinguished from other large hammerhead species by their straight head with its central notch. We often see this shark close to shore because it follows schooling fish into shallow waters.
The Scalloped Hammerhead Sphyrna lewini is another endangered species found here in Florida. Like the great hammerhead, scalloped hammerheads are rather large. They get to between 6 and 10 feet as mature adults. The heaviest one found here weighed just over 991 pounds. Scalloped hammerheads have a distinctive scalloped edge to their head.
Sphyrna zygaena, the smooth hammerhead, can be mistaken for the great hammerhead; both are large although zygaena only gets to around 13 feet. However, smooth hammerheads don’t have the distinctive notch in their head. They’ve also been sighted in freshwater rivers here in Florida. The species is listed as vulnerable.
Sphyrna tiburo, the bonnethead or shovelhead, is a small hammerhead that only gets to around 4 feet long. It’s one of the most common hammerheads we see close to shore here, and is not endangered. Bonnetheads are not considered a threat to humans either, and mainly eat crustaceans. They are however an excellent sporting fish and popular with recreational anglers. We often arrange custom Cape Coral Florida fishing charters for bonnetheads and other game fish.
With the highest weight-for-weight bite force of all cartilaginous fishes, Carcharhinus leucas, the bull shark, is known for its nasty, aggressive, unpredictable nature. They live in packs, in close proximity to human settlements, and are frequently seen well upstream in freshwater river systems. Bull sharks also live quite happily in brackish habitats. In fact, if the water is warm, shallow and murky chances are you’ll find bull sharks living there, regardless of salinity levels! In this part of Florida, they are a common species around Cape Coral and the Sanibel and Captiva Islands.
Bull sharks weighing 700 to 800 pounds have been caught a number of times but these are exceptions. Likewise, adults can get to 14 feet in length, although the average is around 8 feet. Females are typically bigger than males. This makes them popular with anglers who like a bit of a fight. If this sounds like you, book your bull shark fighting Cape Coral and Captiva Island fishing charter today!
Bull sharks prefer to eat stingrays, other small sharks, and fish. However, they’ll also happily eat various other creatures that catch their eye. Birds, turtles, land dwelling mammals and dolphins are all known to be amongst their prey. Like most other shark species, bull sharks can slow down their digestion to avoid starving when food is scarce. They also have a rather innovative defence mechanism. When threatened, they regurgitate their stomach contents to distract the predator and make their escape.
In common with most sharks, bull sharks give birth annually to between 1 and 14 fully developed baby bull sharks. The babies are already around 2 feet in length at birth. They’re usually born in fresh water environments that protect them from other predatory shark species.
Speaking of predators, large bull sharks are at the top of their food pyramid. While they have been seen getting attacked and eaten by crocodiles, they don’t actually have any natural predators in their usual habitats. Other big shark species will eat young bull sharks but the large ones are almost invincible.
Carcharhinus limbatus, the blacktip shark, is the gymnast of the shark world. They are fast, and are frequently seen performing acrobatic aerial spins during their renowned feeding frenzies. Limbatus is the Latin word for ‘bordered’ and refers to the distinctive black border around their fins. Their average size is around 5 feet, and they can weigh about 350 pounds. Blacktips are a common sight in the warm shallow coastal waters around Cape Coral and nearby islands. Their diet consists predominantly of fish and smaller sharks that live in nearshore waters and reef systems.
Blacktip breeding season is spring and early summer. Females produce between 4 and 7 pups every second year after a 10 to 12 month gestation period. The pups are born in shallow coastal water where there is food and protection. There is a well-known blacktip nursery at Pine Island Sound. An interesting thing about blacktips is that the females usually return to the nursery they were born in to give birth.
Interested in Pine Island fishing charters for blacktip sharks? Contact us here at Blue Line Fishing Charters, your experienced professionals in all things fishing.