Sharks and Their Migration

A shark’s location and water temperature go hand in hand. Many sharks prefer swimming in water that is around 73 F, which can be found in South Florida in the winter. Many shark species migrate in and out of Florida’s waters annually. They adjust where they migrate based on water temperature in order to look for food and reproduce. Each species of shark migrates a little differently; even each sex within each species can migrate differently from one another. Around 49 different shark species live within the Gulf of Mexico.

This year, sharks’ migratory patterns have been off, specifically for the blacktip shark. Each year, the blacktip sharks usually show up in east coast Florida waters mid-January, but they showed up a few weeks later. According to a biologist from Florida Atlantic University, this odd behavior could be due to this year’s El Nino, along with warming oceans. With warmer waters up north, the sharks will stay there longer; they won’t migrate yet if they don’t have to.

Here’s a few sharks and their migratory patterns:

Sandbar Shark – Sandbar sharks are known to have a very distinctive migratory pattern, which is believed to be a migration within a migration. This shark likes the water temperature to be between 59 and 86 degrees F. In the summer, the shark can be found Massachusetts all the way down to West Palm Beach, Florida. Come fall and winter time, it stays more south in warmer water from the Carolinas to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. The sexes separate from March to August when it is time for the females to give birth; the females and their babies stay in shallow waters on the East Coast, while the make sharks swim out to deeper waters. When the weather gets cooler, the babies move towards deeper water.

Bull Sharks – Bull Sharks live in both salt and fresh water and prefer to live in shallow waters like estuaries, bays, and river mouths. They are often found in the Gulf of Mexico and other tropical shorelines, and gain access to rivers, like the Mississippi, through this body of water.  In fact, they are found in rivers all over the world and give birth in freshwater rivers and estuaries. Young bull sharks stay in these areas until the water temperature drops and they migrate to warmer offshore waters. They are known to migrate very far to find food; they have been spotted in the Ohio River and places in Indiana. These sharks with inhabit as far north as Massachusetts to all the way down to Brazil.

Hammerhead Shark – This shark does migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and is listed as an endangered species. They are known to be part of the mass summer migrations going north when the waters are warming up; the hammerhead is a highly migratory species. They can be found in shallow coastal areas like continental shelves and lagoons, as well as much deeper offshore depths. In years with El Nino around, these sharks have been known to travel hundreds of kilometers farther than usual. There are several species of hammerheads and most feed in shallow coastal waters, while others migrate into offshore waters to feed at night.

Being Around the Sharks

If you live in Florida, or are visiting, you must be aware that sharks are in the Southwest Florida waters. Most are harmless or stay away from humans, but a few species, like the bull shark, have been known to attack humans. Since the Gulf of Mexico is warm with lots of freshwater inflow and murky estuary waters, bull sharks call this place home. Thankfully on a boat, you are safe from s shark’s bite.

Call me, Captain Geoff of Chasin’ Tales Backwater and Nearshore Fishing, today for a fishing adventure that not only will give you the opportunity to catch a fish, but the chance to see the beautiful landscape the sharks call home each winter. To book a trip, call 239-216-0378 or click here for more information.

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