Onshore, Nearshore, Coral Reefs, Estuaries
191 - 350 pounds
78" - 126"
The Sand Tiger Shark is a saltwater fish that has a frightening look with its sharp needle-like teeth and large body, but despite its appearance, this shark is pretty well-known for being docile. It’s one of the popular museum sharks since it can handle captivity pretty well. They have a brownish-gray hue and brown-red spots on top and a white belly.
They have a flat, cone-shaped, snout and their fins have a triangular shape. It will be easier for you to identify a sand tiger shark with its long oblate tail – the upper lobe is significantly longer (though not as long as a thresher shark’s) than the lower lobe.
This fish also goes with names such as the spotted ragged-tooth shark and the gray nurse shark. Despite its name, it’s not closely related to tiger sharks nor nurse sharks. It’s more related to the white shark.
They stay in temperate tropical waters and mainly eat small fish. They use their pointy teeth to catch small slippery fish. Their teeth act as barbs, impaling the prey and preventing it from escaping. Their diet mostly consists of bony fish, flatfish, crustaceans, squids, rays, and smaller sharks.
Males have an average size of 7-8.5 feet and weigh about 200 pounds and the females can be bigger with sizes of 7-9.8 feet. Minimal sizes of adults are 6.5 feet and the biggest sand tiger shark captured was 10.5 feet and weighed 350 pounds. If you happen to catch a sand tiger shark around 4 feet or less, most likely it’s a juvenile.
The sand tiger shark is a slow-moving fish that likes to stay at the bottom to feed. As of now, there’s no record of its speed since it is a behavior not know for this species.
You can find sand tiger sharks all over the world, except in the Eastern Pacific. They have a wide inshore distribution throughout warm temperate waters. They’re often found in sandy coastal waters, shallow bays, estuaries, and coral reefs. They prefer depths of 6 to 626 feet (1.8 to 191 m).
The sand tiger shark is a migratory species. During the warmer months, they travel to the poles and when it’s cooler, they would go back to the equator regions. In the U.S. you can find them in the western Atlantic Ocean ranging from the Gulf of Maine to Argentina. They’re also commonly found in Cape Cod and Delaware Bay during the summer.
You can spot a sand tiger shark in North Carolina all year round (though numbers are higher during May-October). New Jersey also has this popular game fish, anglers would often surf fish in summer to catch sand tiger sharks and sandbar sharks.
Fly fishing a sand tiger shark is a popular past time for anglers. Using big baits like rays, bonitos, dogfish, or barracuda are good choices if you want to catch a large fish like a sand tiger shark. Remember what the seasoned anglers always say “the fresher the better”; the stinkier your bait is the better it is for you to catch the fish. So make sure that you use fresh baits oozing with oil, blood, and guts.
Anglers may find more success by using a kayak to place the baits farther from the shore, which is why it is recommended to use a bigger reel. You can also catch sand tigers with smaller reels; using a 4/0 would be enough if you don’t want to paddle out so far. Since this species is bottom-dwelling fish, tying your bait with a rock is a good strategy to prevent your bait from drifting away. It will also help your bait sink to the bottom, increasing your chances for a catch. You can also use a kayak if you want to be more adventurous. Just use an anchor to reduce the rocking of your kayak while you wait for a catch.
Using a medium to heavy action surf rod with a 50-pound braid line and a high-capacity reel outfitted is a good choice. Length-wise, 10 to 12 feet rods are good enough to have a fun and challenging fly fishing experience with these sharks.
You can catch more of this fish when the sun is out since the sand tiger shark mostly hunts at night. Best to gear yourself with a headlamp in case it becomes an all-nighter for you or if you simply want to try your luck at night time. A popular game fish like this can go as quickly as 15 minutes, but sometimes it can take you up to hours and make you wait until early in the morning just to get a catch. So be patient and if you get smaller fish during the wait, use them as bait for the shark.