Catch and Release Techniques for Sharks

Many sharks are subject to minimum size limits, and some species may not be legally retained at any size. Check the shark regulations before planning a trip. When releasing sharks, the following tips will help protect both anglers and fish.


  • Sturdy gloves
  • Wet towel(s)
  • Pliers, wire cutters, hook remover
  • Bolt cutters
  • Camera(s)

Handling Your Catch

Safety for Anglers

Handle sharks carefully. Sharp teeth and thrashing tails can cause serious injury.

Safety for Sharks

Proper handling increases the chance that a shark will survive the release. The internal organs of many species of shark are loosely held in place by connective tissue. In the water, these organs are supported, but if the shark is lifted by the tail, the tissue may tear, causing damage to the organs.

  • Leave fish in the water if possible. If that isn't possible, minimize the time the fish is out of the water (just long enough to take photos and measure the fish).
  • If possible, keep the fish from thrashing without using a net. If a net is required, use a rubber-mesh landing net instead of abrasive nylon.
  • Lay the fish horizontally.
  • Do not place on a hot surface, place on a wet towel if possible.
  • Use a wet rag or glove, or wet hands before handling fish.
  • Cover the fish's eyes to calm it.
  • Don't put your fingers in the eyes or gills.

Removing the Hook

  • Remove the hook as soon as possible following landing of the shark.
  • Using pliers, remove the hook by backing it out the way it went in.
  • If the hook is difficult to remove:
    • Cut the hook with bolt cutters and remove the sections, or
    • Cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.
  • If the fish is hooked deeply, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.

More catch and release tips