Thresher Shark

Victoria has a highly valued recreational fishery for thresher sharks. Thresher sharks are one of the premier game fishing species in the State, contributing considerable socioeconomic benefits to regional locations from Portland to Mallacoota. Thresher sharks, like many other sharks are also highly regarded for their eating qualities. The common thresher shark is seasonally abundant at many coastal locations across the State. Victoria has conservative management controls in place for recreational fishing of thresher and other shark species.

Many game fishers choose to catch and release species such as thresher sharks and hence these guidelines are an important tool to maximise survival of released thresher sharks. Recent scientific research for other closely related fast swimming sharks such as short fin mako, found a 90% survival rate following their release.

Guidelines about best practice catch, handling and release techniques ensures recreational fishing for thresher sharks continues to be managed in a sustainable and responsible way.

The most important aspect of catch and release fishing is how the shark is caught, handled and released.

Best practice fishing for thresher sharks

​Since thresher sharks use their long tail to stun prey before it is eaten, they are often hooked by the tail when caught on trolled lures. Foul-hooked thresher sharks have reduced capacity for ram ventilation, which is likely to reduce the potential for survival of a released thresher shark.

The following tips are recommended when targeting thresher sharks:

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Use a baited circle hook

The likelihood of tail hooking is greatly reduced and threshers will not be reeled in backwards. J hooks, and especially treble hooks will result in a higher rate of tail or foul hook up.

Use heavy line and gear

This will minimise fight times and in doing so, minimise stress to the shark. Thresher sharks are highly resilient but short fight times (e.g., 15-45 minutes) are best practice and will potentially improve the rate of survival when released.

Remove the circle hook or cut the lines as close as possible to the shark’s mouth

This will reduce potential for future injury and potentially post release survival. Use a de-hooking device to remove hooks, unless they are deep set, in which case it may cause less injury to cut the trace as close to the mouth as possible.

Keep the shark in the water

This will also minimise stress to the shark (and the fisher) given their strength and ability to thrash their tail and body if brought aboard. Never use a gaff if you intend to release the shark.

Know your limits

Fishers can do their bit to ensure fish for the future by abiding by the bag limit of 1 shark per person under the Victorian Fisheries Regulations 2009. Anglers are also encouraged to fish for other species once they have reached their catch limit- this is a good way to increase the diversity of species targeted each trip.

Suggested best practice catching technique

Slow troll a live (or dead) mackerel rigged with a circle hook on a small piece of wire trace at the surface. When a strike is detected put the reel into free spool, put the boat in neutral and wait for the thresher to come back to eat the stunned bait. The shark may strike the bait several times with its tail before eating it. Once hooked, manoeuvre the boat to follow the shark and gain line wherever possible.

Taxonomy, basic biology and feeding behaviour

There are at least 3 different species of thresher sharks that are world-wide in tropical waters, big eye, common and pelagic. The common thresher shark is found off the coast of Victoria and can grow up to 5 meters in length.

Download Thresher Shark Best Practice Brochure

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