Text Size: A  A  A

Sandbar Shark

Carcharhinus plumbeus

The sandbar shark has a brownish or gray body, a rounded snout and a tall, triangular dorsal fin. (Max Sang/Flickr)
The sandbar shark has a brownish or gray body, a rounded snout and a tall, triangular dorsal fin. (Max Sang/Flickr)

Also known as the brown shark, the sandbar shark is a stocky shark that visits the grassy shallows of the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in summer and autumn. 


The sandbar shark has a brownish or dark gray body with a whitish belly. It has a rounded snout and triangular, saw-like teeth. It has a tall, triangular dorsal fin that increases its swimming stability, and a thick, narrow ridge of skin runs along its back between its two dorsal fins. Adults reach seven feet in length, but the juveniles that are found in the Chesapeake Bay are two to three feet long. 


Coastal waters. Often found in harbors, bays and the mouths of rivers, preferring protected waters and smooth, sandy bottoms. Seldom seen at the water's surface and never move into freshwater.  


Large schools of juvenile sandbar sharks visit the Chesapeake Bay in summer and autumn. As water temperatures cool, sharks move into warmer, southern waters. Most common in the Virginia portion of the Bay, although some travel northward into Maryland waters. 


Sandbar sharks feed on bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates. In the Chesapeake Bay, juveniles often feed on blue crabs.  


Adults have few predators. Juveniles may be preyed upon by bull sharks and other large sharks. 

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Females give birth every other year; they are pregnant for eight to 12 months before giving birth between June and August to eight to 10 live young. Juveniles remain in shallow waters until late autumn, when they form schools and move to warmer, southern waters. Males can live up to 15 years, while females can live as long as 21 years. 

Other Facts:

  • The sandbar shark is the most common shark found in the Chesapeake Bay and along the mid-Atlantic coast. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast. 
  • Like other sharks, the sandbar shark's skeleton is made entirely of cartilage. 
  • Sandbar sharks have been rarely associated with attacks on humans. However, you should always use caution to protect yourself from sharks and other underwater creatures when swimming or wading.

Sources and Additional Information:

Click tabs to swap between type and habitat.

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved