by Mike McNulty
Like many folks who have been diving for many years, I’m always
looking for something unique to make diving more interesting. In the 30 years
since I became certified, I’ve done underwater photography as well as
spearfishing. I’ve dove in lakes, quarries, rivers, coral reefs, and kelp
‘forests’. I’ve done ‘shark dives,’ drift dives, and wreck dives, and I’ve
always looked for ‘something else’ to keep things interesting. Then I found
In particular, I’m talking about diving the shore and near the coast of Venice, Florida for shark’s teeth and other fossils.
Apparently, millions of years ago, the west coast of Florida extended over a hundred miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Most west coast divers are well
acquainted with diving the ‘ledges,’ which at one time, millions of years ago
constituted the ancient shoreline. Besides these ancient shorelines, which are
still underwater, there were also ancient rivers, which are now underwater. One
unique place for diving these ancient riverbeds is off of Venice, where the
rivers were quite close to present day Venice Beach.
Among the fossils one can find diving these sites are prehistoric
shark’s teeth (including the massive Megalodon teeth which can reach sizes over
7 inches), ribs of dugongs (ancestors of present day manatees), fossilized
inner ear bones of dolphins and whales, teeth from prehistoric horses, ‘barbs’
from the tails of stingrays, alligator teeth, whale teeth, camel bones, and
Besides the massive Megalodon sharks teeth, you may find teeth of prehistoric lemon sharks, makos, great whites, sand tiger sharks, tiger sharks,
hammerheads, bull sharks, and ‘snaggletooth’ (or hemipristis) sharks. Of all
the fossils, the shark’s teeth seem to be the most popular (and also the most
“So how do I get started?” you may ask.
Well, there’s three main ways to start.
Mike’s wife, Sun, holding some monsters!
My suggestion is to start with a local dive shop charter. Florida
West Scuba Schools is located in Venice and runs daily ‘shark tooth trips’.
Owner Steve Thacker, a retired geologist from Ohio State University, offers a
unique perspective on the history of prehistoric sharks and other critters, and
begins every dive trip with a short presentation on the history of these
fossils and what to look for. Visit their website at
www.floridawestscuba.com or call them
at 941 486 1400.
He also has the various GPS numbers of the best spots, which he
updates on a regular basis. These spots are all within about a mile or so of
shore, making for a nice short boat ride. With depths of 20-30 feet, dive times
of 90 minutes are not unusual, and with 2 tanks per trip, you can easily get 3
hours of bottom time per trip (greatly enhancing your chance of finding
Narcosis Scuba out of Tarpon Springs has started to run ‘shark tooth
dives’ to Venice. At this point, they are doing beach dives, but are
considering taking one of their boats there in the future if enough interest is
expressed. They can be located on the web at
www.narcosisscuba.com or by calling
727 934 6474. Captain Joyce French is owner of the shop.
Another way to dive the area is from your own boat. However, it may
take a while to find your own ‘good spots.’ What you look for is a rubble type
of bottom, indicating you are in the ‘riverbed.’ If you venture into ‘sandy
areas’ keep going until you find the pebbly bottom again.
If you use your own boat, you may launch for free at the public boat
ramp on Albee Road (across from the Gulf Harbor Marina). This is easily
accessed from route 41 by traveling west on Laurel Road until it dead-ends at
Albee Rd. You’ll be facing Gulf Harbor Marina. Make a right turn and the boat
launch is right around the corner (across from Nokomis Beach Park on Casey
Key). From this launch, follow the intracoastal south about a mile until you
get to Venice Inlet. Go through the inlet into the Gulf and proceed south. The
spots you want to try are about 3/4 to one mile from Venice Beach. Again, it
will take some ‘exploring’ to find good spots, another reason to go with a dive
Lastly, you can beach dive for fossils. Most locals know that small sharks teeth wash up on the beach on a regular basis. Beach diving offers you a
way to find more and larger sharks teeth. There are two main access points. You
can dive from Venice Beach near the Venice Fishing Pier (but make sure to stay
far enough away from the pier. The local ordinance mandates you stay at least
300 feet away. And the fishermen are less than understanding if you venture too
Another option for beach diving is from Service Club Park. This is
right off of Harbor drive, across from the airport. From Business 41, go west
on Venice Blvd. and turn south on Harbor Drive. The park will be on your right
a mile or so down that road. There is a boardwalk there, as well as restrooms
to change and picnic tables for a post dive picnic. You do, however, have to
lug your equipment from the car to the beach, which is about 300 yards.
If you beach dive from either of these locations, make sure you are a decent swimmer. You will be swimming over empty sand for a few hundred yards or
so to get to the ‘good spots’ (some of which may be 1/4-mile offshore). You’ll mainly be in 15-20 feet of water. ALSO MAKE SURE YOU USE A DIVE FLAG! There is plenty of boat traffic, and you need to be visible when you ascend.
Finally, these fossils can be worth some money. The ‘small’ sharks teeth, which are sold to jewelers go for $1 each and the larger Megalodons may go for several hundred dollars or more depending on their size and condition. For an idea of the worth of these teeth, you may want to look at the collection for sale at Florida Scuba’s shop.
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