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Shark Week on the Sand Bar in Key
West

Key West sandbar charters aren’t just about the sun, sand, and party. They’re also a great way to experience the natural and wild side of our beautiful island. You’ll be amazed how much wildlife you’ll get to see once you hit the water and head into the backcountry. We nearly always see dolphins, Magnificent Frigatebirds circling overhead, stingrays gliding over the flats, and lots of fish. But we get really excited when we catch a glimpse of one of nature’s most beautiful preditors–a shark. 

That’s right, there are sharks here, and you might get to see one on a Key West sandbar tour. But fear not–this isn’t like Shark Week or Jaws. There’s no creepy music, and the sharks are way more scared of you than you are of them.

Types of Sharks You Might See on Key West Sand Bar Trips

Key West is an island surrounded by clear, tropical waters–the perfect place to spot a shark. But some sharks only hang in the deep Gulf Stream, and others stick to the coral reefs. Here’s a look at the sharks you might see on a Key West sandbar excursion.

Nurse Sharks

Nurse sharks are the most common type of shark in the Florida Keys. You’ll see them everywhere, from the reefs to the seagrass flats to the channels around the sandbars. They can get pretty big–up to ten feet long. Unlike other sharks that swim constantly and are always in motion, Nurse sharks spend most of their time resting on the bottom. Some people say that nurse sharks look a little like huge catfish. Nurse sharks are nocturnal and eat by slurping up things that live on the bottom. Their favorite foods at lobsters and crabs, small stingrays, sea urchins, and some bony fish. Contrary to popular belief, Nurse sharks do have teeth. Nurse sharks are about as mellow a fish as you’ll ever see. They are not predatory or aggressive. If you see one while snorkeling, float, remain motionless, and enjoy the view. They only attack out of self-defense, and the only incidents involving Nurse sharks have involved people who thought it would be fun to touch or grab one. When you see a shark in the wild, remember this little poem to know which sharks you should touch and which you should not. “Roses are red, violets are blue; Don’t touch the shark.”

Key West Sandbar

Photo by Ryan Geller on Unsplash

Key West Black Tip Shark

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Sandbar Sharks

Sandbar sharks are a more typical looking shark but are also a less common sight. They swim and look just like the sharks on TV–Kardashian Sharks if you will. You can identify them by their large fins, and they get up to eight feet long. They eat small fish like menhaden, grunts, or snappers and sometimes crustaceans like shrimp. Their favorite hunting grounds are shallow, near-shore waters. On a Key West sandbar excursion, you might catch a glimpse of a Sandbar shark cruising in the clear-water channels between the sandbars. They’re shyer than Nurse sharks, so if you see one, it will likely be swimming away from you.

Blacktip Sharks

As you might have guessed, blacktip sharks have a black splotch on their fin. They grow to be about eight feet long and are a common sight on the reefs. On the sandbarsyou’ll see them only rarely. They prefer shallow waters and hunt for small baitfish.

Lemon Sharks

Lemon sharks are some of the larger sharks you’ll see on a Key West sandbar boat trip. They favor backcountry grass and sand flats, so you’ll occasionally see them around the sandbars. They get their name from the slightly yellow hue of their skin. In some ways, their long flat bodies look a little like Nurse Sharks. But they are more active and do not spend any time on the bottom. Instead, they’re more likely to be near the surface.

Lemons like to eat small fish that don’t put up much fight. They have poor eyesight, so they rely on electromagnetism to find their prey. They also munch on mollusks and crustaceans if they can’t find fish.

Bonnethead Sharks

Bonnetheads look a little like their much larger cousins, the Hammerheads. They have the same crazy cranium, but their hammer is more of a shovel shape–or a bonnet if you will. Most of the bonnetheads that we see are under two feet long. You’ll often see them cruising over seagrass flats in the backcountry, searching for crustaceans to munch on.

Shark Week on the Sand Bar in Key West

Photo by Fiona Ayerst on Unsplash

Sand Bar in Key West

Photo by Chase Baker on Unsplash

Bull Sharks

Bull sharks are rare in the Keys but do pass through from time to time. Of the sharks we regularly see, Bulls are the only ones with a reputation for being aggressive. But they’ll also shy away from swimmers, so you’re unlikely to see a Bull shark unless it’s swimming away from you. In the Florida Keys, where the water is clear, you have nothing to fear from a Bull shark.

What Do Sharks Eat?

Sharks are top predators in their environment. They eat fish, crabs, lobsters, and nearly anything else they can find. But, like all predators, they are also scavengers who seldom turn down an easy meal.

Each shark species has a unique method of hunting its prey. For example, Nurse sharks are bottom-feeders that search the sand with powerful sucking jaws. Many sharks can sense the electromagnetic fields of hiding or injured fish in the water.

Do Sharks Attack Humans?

You may notice a pattern here–humans aren’t a food source for sharks. Around the world, shark attacks are exceedingly rare. They’re rarer still in Key West, where the water is clear, and the sharks are pretty laid-back.

According to the Key West Aquarium, there has never been a fatal shark attack here and only one incident involving a shark since the 1800s. In other words, you are 45,000 times more likely to be in a car accident than to be attacked by a shark in Key West.

Those incidents that do happen are nearly always a case of mistaken identity where the shark was hunting in murky waters or the surf zone.

Make Every Week Shark Week on the Sandbars Around Key West

When walking on the sandbar or snorkeling, you have little to fear from sharks. They are magnificent creatures, and seeing them in their natural environment is a real treat. Sandbar hopping in Key West is a great way to combine a day on the water with a little sightseeing eco-cruise. You might see dolphins or maybe even a shark or two. So what are you waiting for? Call Casual Mondays today and hit the water with Captain Zak!

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