Are There Sharks in Jekyll Island, GA? (Types, Photos & Attacks)

Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia, is one of the state’s best island getaway destinations.

It’s a perfect vacation destination, offering 20 miles of biking and hiking, sand dunes, golf, tennis, horseback riding, island tours, and of course, miles of beautiful white sand beaches and Atlantic shoreline.

Geologically, Jekyll Island is one of Georgia’s four barrier islands and the southernmost of the Golden Isles. It’s about 7 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, with tidal marshlands closer to the mainland and sweeping flat beaches along the eastern edge. Most of the island is also protected by Georgia state law, meaning that development is limited to a small part of the island and the rest is left to preserve the natural Jekyll Island ecosystem and wildlife.

If you’re planning on spending time on the pristine beaches of Jekyll Island, you might be wondering:

Are there sharks in Jekyll Island, Georgia? How common are shark attacks at Jekyll Island?

Photo by James Diedrick/Flickr

The most common types of sharks found near Jekyll Island are:

  • Blacktip sharks
  • Sharpnose sharks
  • Lemon sharks
  • Bull sharks
  • And bonnethead sharks

The surrounding waters are home to some of the largest shark breeding grounds in the world, making this region rich with marine life. And, as long as you take the proper care around these ecosystems, Jekyll Island sharks won’t be anything to worry about on your vacation (they might even be something to learn about!) — as Jekyll Island has recorded only three shark attacks in the last 100 years.

Let’s learn more about the types of sharks in Jekyll Island, photos, stats, shark attack incidents, and more!

Types of Jekyll Island sharks

While the Jekyll Island region is one of the largest shark breeding grounds in the world, that doesn’t mean that these waters aren’t safe to swim in and enjoy.

Many of the shark species that make Jekyll Island home aren’t considered harmful to humans, especially if you treat them with the right attitude and respect.

There are many species that spend time here, and only a small handful of them have any history of causing problems.

Blacktip sharks

By Albert kok – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Blacktips are some of the larger shark species found near Jekyll Island, GA, growing up to about eight feet long (though they’re still considered small sharks!).

Their name gives away their appearance: these Jekyll Island sharks have black tips on almost all of their fins.

Blacktips spend most of their time in reefs or other shallow water habitats, feeding on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that also live there.

Behaviorally, these Jekyll Island sharks are shy and often scared of humans. Because of this, they’re not usually a threat, but they can become agitated if provoked while food is nearby.

Sharpnose sharks

By NMFS, E. Hoffmayer, S. Iglésias and R. McAuley – Public Domain

One of the most common shark species in Georgia is the sharpnose shark. This Jekyll Island shark is a relatively small species of shark, averaging between three and four feet long.

Sharpnose sharks can be identified by their coloring, which is characterized by light, almost white spots along their sides, a muddy brown or olive-gray body, and white markings along their dorsal fins.

They have long snouts with a sharp point — hence their name! These smaller sharks feed on proportionately smaller prey like shrimp or small fish.

While they are actually quite common to come across while fishing or diving, they’re not considered dangerous to humans since their bites are rarely serious.

Lemon sharks

Photo by Albert Kok via Creative Commons 3.0

Lemon sharks are one of the species that return to the Jekyll Island breeding grounds every year.

They’re also one of the largest shark species in the area, averaging between eight and ten feet long. They don’t have particularly eye-catching features, but can be identified by the slight yellow tint to their skin.

Lemon sharks aren’t known to be aggressive, and as such, are usually not considered a threat to humans.

Bull sharks

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bull sharks are dark gray, and can measure up to 12 feet long, making them another large shark species near Jekyll Island.

Unlike most other sharks in the area, bull sharks are aggressive — they’re often one of the most common species that bites humans around the world.

While they typically feed on fish, other animals like stingrays, or even other smaller sharks, they are easily provoked and can attack a person (just not for a meal).

A standout fact about bull sharks is that they are one of the only shark species that can survive — and thrive — just fine in freshwater, and they’re sometimes found in rivers hundreds of miles from the ocean!

Bonnethead sharks

By D Ross Robertson – Public Domain

Bonnetheads are a smaller relative of the common hammerhead sharks, usually only reaching a maximum of five feet in length.

Similar to hammerheads, they’re easily identifiable by their shapes; bonnethead sharks have a unique shovel-shaped head, which helps them both locate and feed on their prey.

These Jekyll Island sharks are quite shy, and they rarely bite humans. In fact, they don’t even always attack animals for their prey!

Bonnethead sharks are one of the only shark species that is omnivorous, meaning that while they do prey on small fish and crabs, their diet also consists of seaweed, seagrasses, and other plant life.

Shark Attack History & Statistics in Jekyll Island

Shark attacks anywhere are generally (and statistically) not something to worry about.

Yes, shark bites, attacks, or even mild encounters can be frightening, but dangerous interactions are actually extremely rare — more rare than getting struck by lightning.

Along the entire Georgia coast, less than 20 shark bites have occurred in the last 100 years, with the last fatal shark attack being almost 50 years ago in 1974. There has only been one other fatal attack in the same 100 years.

Given Georgia’s location and the breeding grounds in the waters around Jekyll Island, sharks themselves are more common in this region than other places.

Of the recorded shark attacks in Georgia, three of them have occurred at Jekyll Island.

Compared to the global average of coastal regions, the area here does see a few more shark encounters each year. However, it’s still exceedingly unlikely to experience one, and Georgia has fewer of them each year than its neighboring Atlantic states.

Avoiding Shark Bites in Jekyll Island, GA (Tips & Things to Know)

Knowing what sharks are in the area is just one step you can take towards being safe.

In shark habitat, there are a few things you can practice to stay smart and respectful of the ecosystem, animals, and even predators that we share these beautiful beaches with.

  • Know the signs of a feeding area. Things like bait fishes, diving seabirds, or even fishermen can indicate an area rich with fish and, likely, other animals that sharks feed on.
  • Be mindful of cuts. If you’re bleeding at all, do not enter the water. Sharks have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and they can be drawn to the smell of an injured animal from quite far away.
  • Choose your outfits carefully. Bright colors, clothes with high contrast, or anything shiny (both bathing suits and jewelry) can make you appear more like prey than you are. Shiny things directly mimic the appearance of scales, and bright or contrasting colors make your movements appear more sharp and obvious.
  • Be aware of your swimming. If you can, always swim or wade in a group. Sharks look for easy prey, and they are unlikely to approach a group. It’s also advised to keep an eye on the shore, and not to swim too far from your group, lifeguards, or other help. While swimming, avoid excess splashing, as this movement can mimic the movements of prey.
  • Similarly, it’s best to keep pets out of the water for this reason, since it can be difficult to control an excited pet’s erratic movements.

Interested in more tips? See our guide on shark repellents and whether they’re worth the money.

Wrapping Up

Jekyll Island is located near to some of the largest shark breeding grounds on the planet, but that doesn’t mean that these sharks are a threat to people — or your vacation.

Rather, most Jekyll Island sharks are small and even a little shy, meaning they’re generally not considered harmful.

Stay mindful of the types of sharks you can expect to see, your own behavior, and any official postings or warnings, and your Jekyll Island vacation will be just as refreshing as you dreamed it would be!

For more guides, see:

Hope this helps!