Fishing for the Leopard Shark

The leopard shark is distantly related to the tiger shark

But this fish (Triakis semifasciata) is nowhere near as aggressive. This fish is well-known by veteran anglers but if you’re to the sport, then buy some tackle and gear from Eat My Tackle and you will find out that while the leopard shark isn’t as fearsome as its name suggests, it’s still a challenge.


The leopard shark is located in the Pacific Coast along the Baja and Oregon and they’re all over the California coastline. Leopard sharks swim along the estuaries, harbors and bays. The fish belongs to the Selachimorpha order, but the dark colored marks scattered all over the leopard shark makes it easy to distinguish from the rest.

The San Francisco Bay is a prime spot for leopard sharks, but you will also a lot of them 30 feet and below, with the middle, northern and southern areas good locations if you’re on a boat.

Catching Tips and Suggestions

Fly anglers usually go for surf casting during the summer as the waves tend to be shallow. However if you’re fishing in estuaries or bays there’s no need for fancy gear, but your tackle does need to be durable. You can use a spinning or conventional reel, but regardless what you choose the line should be spooled 30 to 50 lbs.

Most of the leopard sharks caught are anywhere from 3 to 5 feet long, but some are 7 feet or more. Most of them are docile and should not cause any injures or harm, but it never hurts to be careful either.

What Baits and Lures to Use?

Leopard sharks love invertebrates like squid, shrimp, worms and crabs, and they will also fall for small barred surf perch and top smelt. Make sure the barred surf perch you use as bait is young, and then it’s just a matter of casting it in the water. It probably won’t tale long before a leopard shark finds it especially if it’s dusk or dark.

You can use different setups, but the most practical method is to use fish finder rigs and dropper loops with octopus or circle hooks in the 5/0 and 7/0 range, but some anglers have also had success with Carolina rigs and using squid as bait. Don’t limit yourself to invertebrates: if you are fishing in estuaries and bays and the waters are calm, canned cat food or cut bait will do fine.

When fishing for the leopard shark, place yourself not far from casting distance of a trough or channel that assists in tidal flow accommodation. Once the leopard shark senses the bait is good, it’s going to take a lunge for it.

The first strike will feel mild, but after a few seconds your pole is going to bend as the leopard shark makes its move. If you’re angling with several poles and sand spikes, make certain they’re set in terra firma or you’re going to need a new set of rod and reels soon.

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