Shark Fishing in the San Francisco Bay

Shark fishing is a fairly different game than fishing for other species of fish. It can be an intimidating pursuit that attracts more experienced anglers who are prepared for a much bigger bite. When you think of shark fishing, you might immediately think of Jaws. And while the movie has its inaccuracies, its fishing practices are not far off. You bait a hook with the reel in a free-spool with a clicker. And then you sit around and wait until you hear the click, click, click of a bite.




There’s one spot that anyone looking to pull a shark out of the water should most definitely consider: the Pacific waters of the San Francisco Bay. The Frisco Bay is a huge West Coast estuary that has been completely changed by the urban landscape. Even so, the shark populations have remained large, likely because this prehistoric swimmer is highly adaptable and has been able to survive despite human intervention.




There are about 11 species of sharks living in the San Francisco Bay. Some of these can grow longer than 15 feet and weigh several hundred pounds. Leopard shark, broadnose, sevengill, brown smooth-hound, spiny dogfish, and soupfin all live and breed in the bay year round. The spotted leopard shark is the most common, growing up to and sometimes over six feet long. They’re strong, willful, and absolutely beautiful. Other bigger sharks that visit the bay include sixgill, sevengill, mako, and thresher sharks. The thresher shark is the third largest on the West Coast. It has a thick, muscular body and a long tail that it uses to whip its prey, causing a commotion that trained anglers can spot near the surface.

Be advised that the state of California allows three leopard sharks per angler, with a minimum size of 36 inches. 

Sharks can be caught by bottom-fishing from an anchored boat. This goes without saying, but you have to be especially careful when retrieving a shark. They can do some serious damage even outside of the water. If you’re planning to catch a shark, prepare for a fight—it’s likely that you’ll be battling a couple hundred pounds of muscle. This is why, if you’re not planning to go the catch and release route, it’s best to allow for a quick death with a fish club to the head. Be advised that the state of California allows three leopard sharks per angler, with a minimum size of 36 inches. White sharks may not be taken at all, and the limit for sixgill and sevengill are one per day. Mako, thresher, and blue sharks also have a limit of two per day with no size limit. You will need to get a valid California fishing license to fish for any of these in the bay.




For an unforgettable excursion and memories that will last a lifetime, you should schedule a shark fishing tour with an experienced charter or guide. If you’re not a local with a boat of your own, professional anglers can help you battle a shark and come out on top with a shiny new trophy to take home. Shark fishing in San Francisco is one of the most sought-after experiences that anglers can achieve, so if you’re planning a day on the water, you’ll want to make the most of every second.

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