Are There Sharks In Ohio? (Ohio River Sharks)

Are there sharks in Ohio? Ohio is one of the most beautiful states in the United States. With a privileged location, the state is considered by many as the “heart of it all,” as nearly fifty percent of the US population lives within 500 miles of Columbus, the capital of the “Buckeye State.”

Also, there’s plenty of water in Ohio. The state takes its name from the Ohio River, which cuts through the state, which is also bordered by one of the Great Lakes: Lake Erie. So, despite being hundreds of miles away from the ocean, there are still a lot of questions about sharks’ presence in the area. But is this possible? Are there sharks in Ohio?

There are no sharks in Ohio, whether in the Ohio River or Lake Erie. A few stories about shark sightings surged through the years, but no confirmed records. Some sharks were found dead in the Ohio River, but all cases were proven to involve sharks caught elsewhere and dumped in the river.

However, it’s not that crazy to argue about the presence of sharks in the river or even in the Great Lakes, as this is not impossible to happen. Bull Sharks can adapt super well to freshwater and were already found 1000 miles up in rivers, even in the United States. I’ll explain it in detail further in this reading.

Also, in this article, you’ll learn about shark sightings in the state and if a Bull Shark could actually get to Ohio. Also, you’ll discover if it’s true that sharks are living in Lake Erie. Finally, in the last section, you’ll find out if a shark attack ever occurred in the Buckeye State.

To learn all about sharks in Ohio, read on.

Are There Sharks In Ohio? (Species Guide)

Are There Sharks In Ohio?

Some think that where there is no sea, there are no sharks—a big mistake. There are species of sharks that can easily live in freshwater and not just in river mouths and estuaries. For example, there are confirmed records of Bull Sharks found in rivers more than 1000 miles from the sea. So sharks living in Ohio is possible (but unlikely).

To this day, there is no confirmed evidence of sharks living in Ohio. All the sightings and encounters in the state were proven to be fake or with dead sharks caught somewhere else and released in the Ohio River. However, Bull Sharks could potentially swim from the sea to Ohio, but very unlikely.

So, Bull Sharks have never been officially found in Ohio, but it’s the one species that could get there. People even thought that the shark found in the Ohio River a few years ago was a Bull Shark, but it was later identified as a Spiny Dogfish. I’ll talk more about it in the next section.

NameBull Shark
Lifespan>25 years
Max SizeUp to 13 ft (4 meters)
AggressivenessVery Aggressive (Dangerous)
OccurrenceTropical and Subtropical Coastal Waters
PreferenceShallow Coastal Waters – Less than 100 ft (30 m)

Related Article: Are There Sharks In Detroit River? (Explained)

Can A Bull Shark Get To Ohio?

Bull Sharks are incredible (and ferocious) animals. They can live in both salt and fresh water and they have been found in rivers thousands of miles from the sea, even in the Mississippi River. It’s also common in places like the Amazon River in Brazil and the Ganga River in India. So the short answer is yes.

A Bull Shark can get to Ohio through the rivers. However, it’s important to notice that this is very unlikely due to extreme conditions for this species. Distance alone would not be a problem, but cold water, shallow areas, and human constructions make the journey from the sea to Ohio very difficult, even for a very determined Bull Shark.

Distance-wise is theoretically possible for a Bull Shark to land in Ohio, but distance is not the only problem this animal would face to make his way to the Buckeye State. Also, traveling long distances is not part of the usual behavior of these animals. They normally enter river estuaries to find nurseries and easier prey and then return to the ocean.

However, distance is not the only challenge for our sharp-teeth friends paying a visit to Ohio. The temperature would be a huge problem, as Bull Sharks prefer warm waters 68 °F (20 °C) and tropical and subtropical coastal waters. In rough winter, the Ohio River can even freeze, and the temperature of the basin is way below the ideal for these large-stout creatures.

Related Article: Are There Sharks In Delaware River? (Surprising Answer)

Can A Bull Shark Get To Lake Erie?

A shark could also try his way to Lake Erie from the North Atlantic and enter the Gulf of St Lawrence. And again, the temperature would be the first big challenge.

Anyways, let’s assume that this Bull Shark is a huge Cavs fan, and cold is not a problem for him, and distance is also acceptable. So getting to lake Ontario through the St Lawrence river is feasible, but the real challenge comes as a 167 ft (51 m) tall nature wonder: the Niagra Falls.

Sharks have no wings, so it’s the end of our hero journey. There are alternate routes to avoid the falls, but navigating the various lock systems boats use to get up the river would be a tremendous accomplishment for a shark. But, even if he made his way to Lake Erie, the year-round average temperature would probably kill the animal.

All evidence shows that it’s improbable for a shark to get to Ohio through the river or Lake Erie, but not impossible. There are many stories of shark sightings in the Ohio River, but all have been proven false. There are also many word-of-mouth reports of sharks in Lake Erie (as well as Bessie and other creatures), but so far, none has been confirmed. Let’s take a look at the most famous stories.

Bull Shark Found Dead In Ohio River

One of the most famous stories about sharks in Ohio occurred in Olmstead, Illinois, when a fisherman found (and filmed) a 2-ft-long dead shark in the river. With the video in hand, news spread quickly that a Bull Shark had been found in the Ohio River.

After all, it was documented proof of a shark in the river. It was enough to spread fear in some and make others rejoice in “being right all along,” saying there were sharks in Ohio. Well, not so much.

The first specialist consulted about the case said the usual: it’s not impossible for a shark to get to Ohio, especially a Bull Shark, as they were already found hundreds of miles from the ocean. However, Chris said that his theory was not quite the same. Instead, he suspected that the shark was captured elsewhere and then released in the river, an idea that was later confirmed.

A few days later, a biology professor identified the shark as a female Spiny Dogfish, a species that can’t live in freshwater. Therefore, researchers proved their thesis: the shark was captured somewhere else and released into the Ohio River.

Related Article: Are There Sharks In Daytona Beach? (Sharks Guide)

Shark Head Found In Ohio

Another story involving sharks in Ohio happened recently, in 2021, when a shark head washed along the Great Miami River. After finding the shark head, Jamie Gambill and Hailey Weidner posted the photos on Facebook, and it went viral. The pictures sparked a lot of discussions and theories about it.

People quickly commented on their theories, and some said it was “for sure a Bull Shark, as they are long known to live in the Ohio River.” With the repercussion, Hailey consulted some wildlife officials that offered a different (and less exciting) explanation: “looks as though someone discarded it there.”

Not much later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed the theory and said that they were used to see situations like this: “we have seen situations like this before with people discarding shark parts of carcasses after fishing trips to the ocean.”

But the “damage” was already done. People would not believe the official version if Natalie Siler had not come public and revealed the real story about the shark head in Ohio. After seeing the repercussion of the story, Natalie detailed how it was all a misunderstanding: “I bought it to fish from (Ohio market) Jungle Jim’s.”

“I pushed it in for the fish to finish eating and it washed back up. I’m so sorry!” She said and confirmed with a picture of the shark head in her shopping cart. Siler wrote on Weidner’s post that she came forward so people wouldn’t be afraid to kayak on the river. You can read more details about this crazy story here.

Bull Shark Killed In Ohio River

Another story occurred in Manchester, Ohio, when John Bays found a 3-ft long shark floating dead at Island Creek campground. He had gone fishing that day and discovered the animal, which appeared to have been fatally wounded by a boat prop.

“There are a lot of bait fish called skip-jack, they are the ones that look shiny, like sardines, in the river. That is why the bass are here, and I guess that is why the shark may have been here, following the food,” claimed the fisherman.

However, Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials identified the remains as an Atlantic Sharpnose Shark that lives exclusively in saltwater. Therefore, as in the other two cases, the only feasible explanation for the carcass to be found there was that the shark was captured someplace else and then dumped in the river.

Are There Sharks In Lake Erie?

Are There Sharks In Lake Erie?

For a long time, people have been wondering about the presence of sharks in the Great Lakes, which includes the area of Ohio that borders Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the southernmost, shallowest, and warmest of the Great Lakes. It borders Ohio, Ontario, and three other states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.

There are no confirmed reports of sharks in Lake Erie. Despite many word-of-mouth reports, no evidence of shark sightings in the lake was discovered. However, it’s important to notice that despite being unlikely, a Bull Shark can make his way to the Great Lakes.

Through the years, there have been a lot of talks about sharks swimming in the lake and even a story about a shark allegedly washing up dead on the shores of the lake. However, there is confirmed evidence that supports the presence of sharks in Lake Erie.

As Joseph Trovosky, a Marine Biology student says, it’s not impossible for a Bull Shark to get to the lakes, but it’s very unlikely.

While it would technically be possible for a shark such as a Bull Shark to make the journey to the Great Lakes, there are many barriers that prevent them from doing so. The biggest challenges they would face entering from the Atlantic would be Niagara Falls. They either have to swim up it or somehow navigate the various lock systems in place that boats use to get up the river.

Joseph Trovosky

Finally, if the presence of sharks in Lake Erie is not confirmed, this mystery sure does a great story. That’s why in the 2021 book Sharks in Lake Erie by area resident H. John Hildebrandt, an eco-terrorist organization, secretly introduces six adult bull sharks into Lake Erie. Seems like a great read 🙂

Related Article: Are There Sharks In Denmark? (New Research)

Shark Attacks In Ohio

There is no register of shark attacks registered in Ohio in the reports from International Shark Attack File (ISAF) and Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), the two most reliable shark data institutes. It may sound obvious, but it is not, as there are places in the world with confirmed attacks in rivers and even in aquariums (usually involving personnel).

  • Total Incidents Reported: 0
  • Provoked Attacks: 0
  • Unprovoked Attacks: 0
  • Invalid Data: 0
  • Sea Disaster/Watercraft: 0
  • Fatal Attacks: 0

Related Questions

Has a shark ever been in the Ohio River? At least one shark was already found in the Ohio River. However, researchers identified the species as a Spiny Dogfish, not a freshwater shark. This evidenced that the animal was captured elsewhere and dumped in the river, where it was found dead.

Are there sharks in Ohio lakes? Despite many rumors, there is no confirmed evidence of shark presence in Ohio lakes, including Lake Erie. However, it’s not impossible for a species like Bull Sharks to make their way into the lakes and even the Ohio River, but it’s improbable.


André Bonassoli

What’s up guys. I’m André, and I've been passionate about Sharks for as long as I can remember! I’ve created this site to share different things with you that I’ve learned and am constantly learning. Whether you're just here with some simple questions or you're passionate about Sharks as well, I'm glad you're here!

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