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black tip shark

A Guide To Sharks In The Gulf Of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico has a diverse ecosystem with a wide array of interesting and wonderful sea creatures. In fact, the number of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico shows just how strong and healthy the ecosystem is.

Globally, there are 350 species of sharks, and 51 of those different species thrive in the Gulf’s offshore waters. Read on to find out more!

As apex predators, sharks help to maintain the food chain in the Gulf by removing weak and sick fish and sea mammals. Sharks also help to keep the balance with other competitors to ensure species diversity.

You may not be able to keep every shark you catch in the Gulf, but that just ensures the other types of fish you catch will be worth the battle.

But, what kinds of sharks can you expect to catch and release while you’re on your fishing trip? Below are the many different shark species you can expect to see.

What Sharks Are in the Gulf of Mexico?

You’re most likely to see sharks in the Gulf between May and September when the waters are warmer, especially along the beachfront and nearshore waters of Galveston.

Sharks can be fun to fish for because they’re such strong fighters, making them the best choice for anglers looking for a big fish fight.

Find out more below about some of the sharks you can expect to see while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico…

Bull shark

The bull shark is one of the most aggressive shark species in the world. These fearsome fighters can grow between seven and 11.5 feet long, weighing up to 500 pounds.

While it may not be the largest shark in the water, the bull shark has a stronger bite than any other shark species.

bull shark
The bull shark is not only one of the most aggressive sharks, but it has the strongest bite!

Thresher Shark

The thresher shark is named for its exceptionally long tail, which it uses to stun its prey. These sharks can reach up to 20 feet long and can weigh up to 1,100 pounds. Other types of thresher shark (there are three in total) are smaller and range between 10 feet and 16 feet.

Hammerhead shark

The hammerhead shark is an iconic species because of the shape of its head, which allows it to see all the way around its body. It also has an incredible sense of smell, which it uses to find prey.

The common hammerhead can range between 13 to 20 feet long and weigh between 500 to 1,000 pounds.

hammerhead shark
The hammerhead shark is unmistakeable, due to its unique head shape.

Blacktip Shark

Compared to other shark species, the blacktip shark is on the smaller side coming in at just eight feet long. The blacktip can weigh anywhere between 66 to 220 pounds.

You might be able to spot these sharks above the water. They leap above the surface and splash down on their backs as a way to stealthily strike at fish near the water’s surface.

black tip shark
The black-tip shark is one of the more acrobatic sharks, as it often jumps above the surface while striking its prey.

Oceanic white tip shark

The oceanic whitetip is considered a bold and persistent hunter. It ranges between nine to 13 feet long and weighs an average of 200 pounds.

Large and stocky, the oceanic white tip has a distinctive pattern of mottled white markings on the tips of their tail, dorsal, and pectoral fins.

oceanic white tip shark
The oceanic white tip shark has distinctive markings on its tail and fins.

Shortfin Mako Shark

The shortfin mako is the fastest-swimming shark in the world, capable of swimming at 60 mph or 61 feet in a single second.

The shortfin mako is also capable of jumping up to 30 feet high. These sharks range between 133 to 300 pounds and 10 feet in length.

Nurse Shark

Nurse sharks are a major tourist attraction for the Gulf of Mexico because of their docile nature.

Snorkelers and divers enjoy swimming with these creatures along the warm tropical shallows.

Nurse sharks typically spend their time lounging on the ocean floor.

Although these sharks are relatively harmless to humans, they’re certainly not small. Nurse sharks can grow up to 14 feet long.

nurse shark
The nurse sharks calm demeanor makes it a popular tourist attraction for divers and snorkelers.

Lemon shark

Lemon sharks are the most likely to interact with humans in the Gulf of Mexico because they prefer to hunt bony fish and sea birds along the shoreline.

Lemon sharks are also some of the most social sharks in the ocean. Unlike other sharks that hunt alone, lemon sharks prefer to live and hunt in large groups.

The average lemon shark can grow up to be around 11 feet in length and 220 pounds.

Finetooth Shark

Like the lemon shark, the finetooth shark also likes to travel in large packs. These sharks prefer shallow waters and rarely swim in depths over 66 ft.

The average finetooth shark is just over six feet long and is an incredibly fast swimmer. The finetooth shark’s name comes from its small, needle-like teeth.

Florida Smooth-Hound Shark

The Florida smooth-hound shark is a smaller species of shark, coming in at just 3.6 feet long. Like the nurse shark, the smooth-hound shark is considered harmless to humans.

They have a pointed snout, oval eyes, long pectoral fins, and an asymmetrical tail. They can typically be found along the ocean floor.

Blacknose Shark

Like the Florida smooth-hound shark, the blacknose shark is also surprisingly small. The average blacknose shark matures at 3.5 to 4.5 feet long and weighs only 23 pounds.

This shark gets its name from the dark spot located on its long snout. Blacknose sharks are typically yellowish-gray in color, which allows them to blend in with the sand along the ocean floor.

Sandbar Shark

Also known as brown sharks, sandbar sharks average at around six feet long at 110 to 150 pounds. They’re recognizable from their large, triangular dorsal fin and long pectoral fins.

The sandbar shark prefers to swim along the sandy bottoms of coastal areas. Like many other requiem sharks, sandbar sharks prefer warmer waters and make a seasonal migration down to the Gulf of Mexico, but they’ve been known to travel as far as the Long Island Sound to give birth.

Tiger Shark

The tiger shark’s name derives from the dark stripes along its body. The tiger shark can grow to be as long as 16.5 feet and weighs anywhere between 849 to 1,400 pounds.

Tiger sharks are slow swimmers, reaching a speed of just 2.4 mph, but they’re also one of the ocean’s strongest swimmers.

The tiger shark is an aggressive hunter and has been known to attack other sharks while hunting.

Silky Shark

The silky shark gets its name from the smooth texture of its skin, which isn’t common in other shark species.

The silky shark has a slim, streamlined body that can reach up to 12 feet in length and weigh up to 770 pounds. Silky sharks have a strong sense of hearing, which they use to locate bony fish, squid, and octopi.

There are many different species of shark you can fish for in the Gulf of Mexico. Each one provides a unique fishing experience you’ll be sure to remember.

capt shane cantrell of galveston sea ventures
Capt. Shane Cantrell of Galveston Sea Ventures
brittany jill holding flathead catfish

Get To Know The Flathead Catfish

I received a call from some of my best friends, saying I needed to get to their house ASAP.

aly from alabama holding flathead catfish
Flathead catfish can grow to enormous sizes, like this one, held by Aly Hall.

When I pulled into the driveway a few minutes later, I saw one of the biggest fish of my life lying in front of the garage.

They had noodled a flathead catfish that weighed 50 lbs!

The mind blowing thing about the situation is that they didn’t even break the record for the biggest flathead catfish to be brought out of our local lake.

So, as you can imagine, flathead catfish can grow to incredible sizes and weights.

How Big Do Flathead Catfish Get?

Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) are the second largest species of catfish in North America (second to the blue catfish).

Flatheads have several other nicknames such as shovelhead cats, yellow catfish, mud cats, Opelousa Catfish, Opp, Appaloosa Catfish, App, and Pied cats. They are also sometimes referred to as goujan, appaluchion, and johnnie cats.

According to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife, the flathead catfish got their name due to their broad and flat-looking heads. They have a lower jaw that protrudes and a tail that is slightly forked.

The back and sides of a flathead catfish range from pale yellow to light brown and have splotches ranging from dark brown to black. They have a yellow-ish and/or cream-colored belly.

“Pylodictis” is Greek for “mud fish” and “olivaris” is Latin for “olive-colored.”

According to the International Game and Fish Association, the world record flathead catfish weighed 123 lbs. It was caught in the Elk City Reservoir near Independence, Kansas.

Compared to other popular game fish species such as bass, crappie or bream, flathead catfish are enormous. For example, the Kansas state record for largemouth bass is just 11 lbs 12.8 ounces.

Due to their enormous growth potential, it’s easy to see why fishermen love trying to catch monster flatheads.

Why Fish for Flatheads?

Fishing for catfish is extremely fun and easy to learn. Unlike many other styles of fishing, catfishing doesn’t require a ton of gear.

Flatheads put up a solid fight and they taste great! When you’re in desperate need of a meal, catfish are an outstanding food source.

Ideally, when fishing for food, smaller fish are preferred. However, large flathead catfish can provide you with several meals and not forfeit the quality of flavor.

Catfish can be caught using a variety of tactics which means the potential to have more opportunities to consistently catch fish. Check out some of the methods below!

Flatheads put up a great fight, especially if you’re in a kayak!

How to Fish for Flathead Catfish

There are a vast number of ways to fish for flatheads. Fishing regulations vary from state to state on how you can legally catch flathead catfish, so be sure to check your state’s regulations before you try a new technique.

  • Rod and reel: When we think of fishing, this is typically what we picture in our minds. Using a rod and reel, fishing line, weights, hooks, swivels, and bait. Cast out a line, put a hook N1, and reel in the fish. No boat required!
  • Bank poles: Using a bank pole is a great option when you don’t have a boat. You will need PVC, fiberglass, or similar material for the pole. The line length will be determined by where you are fishing, as well as what weights, hooks, swivels, and bait you want to use. Tie the line to the pole and find the ideal spot to push the pole(s) into the bank and let the line out. Sit back and let the fish find the bait!
  • Limb lines: Making a limb line is pretty simple and can lead to catching lots of catfish. You need line, weights, hooks, swivels, bait, and a boat. The length of the line will depend on the depth of the water you plan to fish. Keeping your bait just off the bottom is ideal. Find a strong limb overhanging the water where catfish are known to be and tie the line to the limb. Now relax and wait! Check your limb lines every couple hours!
  • Trotline: Trotlines are similar to limb lines, in that you are typically tying the line to a couple of trees. Stretch the line to whatever length you need to be able to tie it to a couple of trees or anchor points. Tie on drop leaders and swivels about 3 feet apart. Then, attach hooks, weights, and bait. Find a couple of solid anchor points and tie each end of the line to them and wait!
  • Jugs: You will need a boat for this technique as well. You can use old jugs, pool noodles for “jug fishing.” There are also companies that manufacture ready-to-use products for this type of fishing. Tie a line to the jug (the length will be determined by the depth of water you are in). Then, tie a weight and hook to the line and place the bait on the hook. Find the best spot possible to place the jugs and get after it!
  • Noodling (hand-fishing): This is how my friends caught that 50 lb monster flathead cat. Very little equipment is needed. However, bravery and strength is a must! Find an underwater hole or overhang where flathead catfish will nest and shove your hand into the hole. If there is a fish in the hole, you will feel it, or it will bite your hand. When it bites your hand grab ahold of its lower jaw and pull it out of the hole. Watch out catfish are extremely slippery. Be sure you have a good grip on the fish or it will get away!
Noodling, or hand fishing, is one way to catch big flatheads. Are you brave enough to try it!
spencer hardin holding big flathead catfish
Flathead catfish are a favorite among many fisherman (like Spencer Hardin here), especially in the eastern U.S.

What Do Flatheads Eat?

Flathead catfish are opportunistic feeders. Like other species of catfish, they will scavenge for their meals. However, they prefer to ambush smaller live fish such as shad, crappie, sunfish, white bass, etc.

Flatheads are aggressive and will eat just about anything that they can fit into their mouth. Small flatheads will eat worms, crawfish, insects, and minnows.

When choosing a bait to use to catch a flathead, try to use common baitfish or chunks of baitfish. Shrimp, chicken liver, and other stink baits often work. Since they prefer live food, try to stick with using live bait.

Flathead catfish themselves do not have many predators to speak of, but other fish will eat young catfish as well as some fish-eating birds.

Where Do They Live?

The Texas Parks & Wildlife states that flathead catfish prefer deep, slow-moving pools of murky water during the day. At night, they will move up into shallower water to feed.

They are typically found at the mouths of creeks, rivers, in lakes, and below lake dams. Flatheads hide under cover such as sunken trees and underwater overhangs where they can ambush their next meal.

Flatheads are found throughout the Mississippi River watershed and the lower Great Lakes.

Many fishermen across the eastern half of the United States target flathead catfish. Because they are fun to catch and also adapt well, they have been introduced into bodies of water where they are not native and have begun to hurt populations of other species of fish.

Flathead lifespan

The Texas Parks and Wildlife also states that the average lifespan of flathead catfish is 12 to 24 years, although there has been a flathead that lived for 24 years.

Flatheads spawning begins in the Spring as water temperatures rise. The month can vary depending on location, as bodies of water that are further South would typically warm sooner than those further North. Spawning months range from April all the way to even August in some cooler locations.

Final Thoughts

If you have never taken the opportunity to catch a flathead, you are missing out. Catching a catfish is always a thrill and doesn’t require an enormous amount of gear.

You can be at your local lake, river, creek, or pond catching catfish in no time at all. After reading this article, you now have some basic knowledge and understanding of flathead catfish and how to catch one for dinner tonight! Head to the water and get fishing… I hope you Put A Hook N1!

taxidermy shop with antlers on ceiling

Choosing The Right Taxidermist | There’s More To It Than You Think

By D. Price

Okay, I know many of you ask yourself, “how do I go about choosing the right taxidermist,” am I correct?

Of course, you could just speak into your phone an say, “taxidermist near me.”

But, that’s not going to tell you what you really need to know.

In this article, I’m going to explain what you should be looking for in a taxidermist that you will be contracting to mount your trophy of a lifetime.

Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If something doesn’t sound, look or even feel right, always trust your gut.

pronghorn mount
Your trophy is worth you putting in the time to find out some specifics about the taxidermist you are planning to use.

Questions That Need Answers When Choosing a Taxidermist

The answers to the following questions do not necessarily determine whether a taxidermist is competent or incompetent. However, you might learn enough to know whether or not you feel comfortable enough to risk putting your trophy in that person’s hands.

Is The Taxidermist “Online?”

In this technology-dominated era, one question worth finding out is, does the taxidermist you are considering for your trophy have an internet presence?

These days, almost all legit companies have some sort of online footprint, whether it be a fancy website, or a social media business account. So, do your homework!

What Is Their Contact Information?

Does the taxidermist you are considering have a dedicated business landline? If the answer is no, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign of cutting corners if it is their home phone or a mobile phone only.

Do they have a local area code for their business phone number?  If not, it could mean that this person moves a lot, bouncing around and taking deposits and trophies with them and just never changing their contact information.

There are a lot of “here today, gone tomorrow” taxidermists out there. So, be careful!

What Type Of Payments Are Accepted?

antlers and cape of deer
Paying a taxidermist in full before doing the work could lead to your work going unfinished for long periods of time.

A very important question to find out the answer to is, does this taxidermist accept only cash and/or ask for full payment upfront?

Now, you can always expect to pay a deposit before the work is started, but usually 50% is sufficient.

Demanding full payment up front and/or only accepting cash is a big red flag!

Being paid in full could give a taxidermist little incentive to complete your project in a timely manner, or in extreme cases, complete it at all!

Cash only transactions could mean they are hiding, or trying to hide, something from the IRS or the bank. There is no reason to not at least accept a personal check or even credit/debit cards.

If they are running from the IRS, they could easily disappear on you.

Also, make sure you sign a work order or contract with them on the work to be done. This agreement should explain in detail what is expected in the end-product, as well as the deposit paid and balance due. This will help to keep both you and the taxidermist on the same page regarding your requests and desires for your trophy mount.

What To Look For In Quality Taxidermy

taxidermist working on deer mount
In taxidermy, the old adage is typically true… You get what you pay for.

Now that we have the business end of the matter out of the way, let’s discuss quality.

There are many levels of quality in taxidermy, just as there are in any other service industry such as home repairs, mechanics, restaurants, lawn care, etc.

Are you looking at getting your buddy that practices taxidermy on the side or as a hobby to mount your trophy whitetail? Or, are you looking a high-end professional job when it is all said and done?

Remember, this is something that you are going to display in your home or office that reminds you of a memory of a special moment in your past. You will be looking at this “piece of art” for the rest of your life. So, think it through.

There are taxidermists out there for everyone’s expectations as well as budgets. But, don’t have high expectations on a low-budget and do not settle for shoddy work when paying premium prices. It’s up to you to determine what you want, and what you are willing to pay for, in your taxidermy work.

Taxidermy Details (There’s More To It Than You Think!)

On to the work itself! Are you looking for standard, what we call “straight out of the box” taxidermy?

Or, are you wanting custom, all the bells and whistles taxidermy, that gives you and your guests the “WOW” factor when walking into the room to see it? Again, this is your decision to make, and it’s your money you are spending.

Some of you may be thinking, “what are the ‘bells and whistles’ in taxidermy? After all, a deer head is a deer head. A life-size bear is a life-size bear, right?”

Wrong!

All taxidermy work is not created equal! For instance, do you want your finished whitetail mount to have a solid jet black nose? Or, do you want to have the nose look realistic and show all the depth and colors that are really in a deer nose (believe it or not a whitetails nose is not solid black)?

Do you want the high-end glass eyes that look alive with white banding and veining detailed into them? Or, do you want generic, solid brown or black plastic eyes, just to fill the void in the mount?

What about your mountain lion or grizzly bear, even something smaller like a fox, bobcat or coyote? Do you want them to look realistic and alive, or look like a cartoon character having a bad day? Because, you can get either one.

These are all things you NEED to discuss beforehand with the taxidermist to make sure he/she can meet your expectations.

Don’t go by the ad they have in a magazine, on a billboard sign with trophies and ribbons in the back ground, or their website covered with competition pieces they have put hundreds of hours into to get those plaques and awards.

>> Check out more N1 apparel designs and the stories behind each!

Be A Detective

Go into the taxidermist’s showroom and view other clientele’s work that is waiting to be picked up. Go view someone else’s mount in their home that has been completed by the taxidermist in question.

You want to see what goes out of the shop on a day-to-day basis and make your decision based on those pieces, as opposed to the ones that were meticulously done with the intent of pleasing a judge at a convention and had professional photographers doing photo shoots for the website or ads.

I’m not saying that the competition pieces are a fluke, but it’s worth questioning whether a taxidermist produces, within reason, the same high quality, eye-pleasing work for everyday customers.

More To Consider

man working on taxidermy mount
Not all mounts are created equal. Be sure you have asked your taxidermy candidates the detailed questions for deciding who to go with.

There are some more things to consider when choosing the taxidermist you would like to handle your work.

What Is Their Niche?

All taxidermist have their niche. They may not admit it, but they do.

So, just because taxidermist (A) does an awesome job on your trophy mule deer from your Wyoming hunt last fall, do not automatically assume he/she will do a high-quality job on that largemouth bass or giant catfish you just caught out of your private farm pond, or that beautiful pintail drake you harvested back in the winter on that frigid coastal morning you’ll never forget. You very well may need to get taxidermist (B) and maybe even taxidermist (C) involved to take care of these projects for you.

Also, you do not have to settle for the local guy if his work is not up to your standards. Trophies are shipped all around the world daily, so don’t think you are limited to a certain area.

When Your Trophy Is Not In Your Town

If you are planning an out of state or even out of the country hunt, and you are using a taxidermist in your hometown, check with them to see about expediting your skins, trophy antlers and/or horns back to you, or to the taxidermy shop, BEFORE you leave for the hunt. They should know all the ins and outs of taking care of these sort of things.

Likewise, if you are using a taxidermist local to where you will be hunting, inquire about the cost and process of getting your trophies back home before you leave them. Failing to find out the answer to this question could cost you big money, or even worse, the loss of your mounts.

squirrel mount
Be sure that you take the time to choose the right taxidermist, so that your unforgettable memory can be viewed by all for years to come.

Turnaround Time

Turnaround time to get your work back is another big issue for most hunters and taxidermists alike.

Always ask when you can expect to get your trophies back. Keep in mind it is an estimated time frame.

So many things can happen between drop-off and pick-up that are out of the control of both parties. For example, work load, illness, weather, family issues, can all affect turnaround time.

No one wants to hear excuses for why something doesn’t go as planned, but if your taxidermist gives you a completion time of six months, don’t call them at the four month mark asking, “Hey, just checking on the progress…” Give them the six months you agreed upon.

Likewise, if he/she gives you a one-year turnaround time frame (and you don’t have a problem with it), and a year goes by without an update, by all means give them a follow up call and they should be able to give you a much more accurate completion time at that point.

If the turnaround time is an issue for you and you would like to get it back sooner, most taxidermists offer a rush service, and for an extra fee will jump your project in front of others and give you a certain pick-up date for the extra charge.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right person for your taxidermy job. Just like the time and money you put into your hunting food plots, equipment, traveling, scouting and guide services, you should also expect to put that same effort into your search for the right taxidermist for the trophies you harvest and would like to mount. The animal deserves that from you.

Just as you put in the legwork for that once in a lifetime buck, put that same effort into preserving that memory for a lifetime.

Happy and safe hunting and fishing to everyone!

D. Price, Outback Taxidermy

www.outbacktaxidermy.net

919-562-4280

D. Price of Outback Taxidermy. Follow on Instagram

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