know your shark regulations
As sure as summer comes around, so too do questions about shark fishing regulations and the legality of catching them, especially from shore based anglers. There has been a good amount of confusion concerning catching sharks from shore as a result of the dramatic increase in their numbers in recent years. So, while anglers continue tossing bunker and mackerel chunks in hopes of a big bass or blue, they are more than likely to connect with a shark.
According to Kristin Brown, a public affairs specialist with NOAA Fisheries, while some species of sharks are federally protected, shore-based shark fishing and shark fishing while in state waters within three miles of shore are managed by the individual state. From Maine through Florida, the specific requirements must be at least as restrictive as the requirements in the Coastal Shark Fishery Management Plan maintained by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
Currently, all states along the Atlantic Ocean prohibit shore-based fishermen from retaining the 21 shark species prohibited in federal waters. Those most common to our shores include sand tiger, sandbar (brown) and dusky sharks. She noted that states may also set other requirements for shore-based fishermen that aren’t mirrored in federal regulations and recommended anglers contact their appropriate state agency, in this case NYDEC, for more information on their specific requirements.
One of the most common questions and concerns associated with this fishing is whether an HMS (Highly Migratory Species) permit is required to land and possess sharks not on the protected list. NOAA Fisheries manages all U.S. shark fisheries in federal waters and beyond. Federal regulations do not require recreational shark fishermen fishing in state waters hold an Atlantic HMS permit. However, anglers on a vessel with an HMS permit must follow federal regulations for HMS, even in state waters. Since the HMS permit is issued only to a vessel, there is no permit required for shore based shark fishermen.
The question of targeting certain species of sharks is rather ambiguous, given that while you cannot target sand tigers, sandbars or duskys, you can target blues, threshers, makos, blacktips and spinner sharks. The latter two, more common down south in Florida waters, showed up along our shores in large numbers last summer. If there is any question about a shark’s identity, treat it as one of the protected species. Obviously there is no way to specifically target, or not target, one species of shark. The important thing to remember is that if you do land one of the protected species, it must be released immediately and not removed from the water’s edge. Avoid dragging it up on the beach and do not hold it up for photos.
Non-stainless, non-offset circle hooks must be used for shark fishing in state and federal waters, which should make unhooking easier. Even if you are targeting stripers or blues, you should be using circle hooks. Circle hooks will become mandatory for targeting striped bass with bait beginning in 2021. Now would be a good time to make up all of your bait rigs with non-stainless, non-offset circle hooks. Always try to remove the hook as quickly and safely as you can. A long handled hook disgorger is the best answer to keeping your hands safe, with long handled pliers a secondary option. If you must cut the leader, cut it as close to the mouth as possible. The key is to get the shark back and swimming as fast as possible.
State size limits apply to those sharks you can legally target. For the sharks mentioned as fair game, a 54-inch minimum fork length applies. Makos are the exception, with a 71-inch minimum for males, and an 83-inch minimum for females. Females have no claspers protruding from their lower body.
If you are serious about sharking from the beach, or boat for that matter, it is your responsibility to learn how to identify the different species, and to carry the equipment necessary to ensure a safe and quick release. The DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/119778.html has all the info you need to help you target sharks legally and successfully, including tips on releasing them safely.