Sustainable Fishing, Marine Biology & Conservation
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Wednesday
May092012

Tiger Shark

*photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (not used in the book)

(Geleocerdo cuvier)

Great whites can grow larger, but of all the species the average shark fisherman is likely to catch, tigers are the largest. Recreational anglers have landed tigers over 1700 pounds, and given the opportunity, this species can reach more than a ton. That's a lot of fish, and a good reason to keep the light tackle stowed in the cabin when a big tiger is in the chum line.

Tigers are warm-water sharks that may be found in any of the nearshore or offshore waters along the entire East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (not to mention the rest of the world) as long as they have temperatures of 70 degrees or better. Like most species, large tigers will typically tend to stay farther out in the deeper water while the juveniles will more likely be the ones encountered closer to shore.

The Tiger's big head holds an exceptionally large jaw adorned with a set of unique serrated teeth that hook sharply to the side. This tooth design allows tiger sharks to feed on sea turtles (a favorite prey) and actually crush through the shells without breaking their teeth in the process. Tigers are probably the species that years ago prompted someone to label sharks "the ocean's garbage collectors". Stomach contents of these sharks have reviled enough animate and inanimate objects to show that they don't always show much discretion in what they eat- no wonder they get so fat!

Tigers were once a common catch in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but like so many other shark species, their number have slipped dramatically. They're still occasionally taken in the northern latitudes, but these days the Southeast and Gulf provide anglers the best opportunity to encounter tiger sharks. The poor quality and taste of tiger shark meat makes this species of no use for food, therefore, there is absolutely no reason why any recreational fisherman should do anything but catch-and-release this species.