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  • Mallory Herzog

Hammer Time

This week on my calendar is marked with a hammerhead. I never for a second thought this would actually become a reality. Friday evening we set out with one thing in mind. Searching for a spring time hammerhead. In the 4 years we have been shark fishing we had yet to catch our own. The tides seemed just right and Andrew hurried to get baits in the water. No more than 45 mins later Andrew was hooked up and the drag was screaming! The fight was short lived though. 10 mins in this fish swam in between a few boats and was broken off. We all suspected what kind of shark this was but didn’t say anything. Awhile later I walked to the truck to gather new supplies to set back out and came across some guys who were watching us when we hooked up. ” Its a shame you lost that big hammer” I explained that we never actually got to see the fish but before I could finish my sentence he interrupted with ” oh I saw him, we’ve been watching with binoculars, he surfaced between two boats I could see your yellow line clearly” We put baits back out and stayed until around 11pm with zero bites the rest of the evening.

Saturday we knew that we had to try again. They are here and we knew what they were eating so why not head out for a few hours and attempt this one more time. Sting ray and barracuda from the freezer and we were on the way. Same scene different day when we arrived. With in the first 25 mins of having baits in the water we lost a sizable fish who spit our bait out without being hooked. Andrew quickly redeployed this worn out once bitten bait and hoped for the best. I walked over and was sitting near the black 80w when I noticed it moving very slowly, not even enough to pull drag. Something was down there playing with the bait, all of a sudden, very slowly this fish took drag. We were going to let this one eat a bit! Letting her run while the rod was still in the pipe while Andrew harnessed in.

This was fast we knew right away it was a shark. This fish ran straight out 5-600 yards of line on the first run. Then all of a sudden nothing but slack line. At one point Andrew actually unharnessed and put his rod in the pipe, assuming that once again the fish was off. I knew something was still there, even though the line wasn’t tight it was raised up out of the water. I’ve never seen this before so I just kept reeling in the pipe until all of a sudden there she was! Weight back on the line. I yelled down the beach and Andrew quickly got back into his harness to fight this fish. By this time its dark, my head lamp is in the car so I grab the spot light to run down the beach as this fish is headed for other peoples fishing lines. Over, under and side to side we guided Andrew around the tangled mess of gear this hammer made. Cutting my 80w off completely and loosing a hook section out of the leader on another line.

The next thing I know there was the knot at the leader! The next image I saw will be burned into my memory forever. I focused into the dark water and tried to locate this fish, 30 yards out in the top of the water colum but not yet breaking the surface. It honestly looked like a HUGE lemon shark due to its dorsal being cut by a boat propeller. I saw her tail and realized that finally, this was a hammerhead! We’ve caught countless sharks but have never landed a hammer. This fish wasn’t done yet and ran another 200 yards. A total fight time of 45 mins until she was out a few yards off the beach where she stayed. I tried my best to pull on the leader and assist Andrew in getting her close enough to de-hook but I was not strong enough. Tug of war with a 800-1000lb fish. Luckily by this time we gathered a crowed. I asked two guys if they would assist us in pulling this shark the rest of the way in so I could tail rope.

As I entered the water and began to tail rope this shark, out of the darkness comes our old team mate from Big Hammer Challenges Nino! Ive never been so happy to see him in my life. He has extensive experience handling sharks especially hammers. He was fishing on another local beach tonight. I had text messaged him at the very beginning of this fight telling him that we were hooked up! I didn’t realize the massive size of this shark until my 5’5 self was standing next to it. I think I threw the tail rope at him and replied with “help with anything” He got it around the top of her tail and it took all my strength to lift the bottom of her tail up to secure the rope.

Andrew grabbed the tape measure as we tagged her for NOAA Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. Nino yelled the measurement total length at at 13’7. WOW. I assumed this fish was over 10 feet, but I never expected it to be over 13 feet. Andrew de-hooked her as pictured above. We don’t promote doing this with your hands but the de-hooker was not working in this particular hook position. The rest is really a blur as I tried my best to get Andrew a few quick pics before her release while still recording on the go pro! Andrew and Nino began to walk her out into deeper water. Brandon held her hammer off the sand so it wouldn’t drag along the bottom and tear up her face. It was obvious pretty quickly, as this shark came back towards our feet that she was ready to go. We walked along with her down the beach and gave her dorsal a strong push. She kicked her tail and swam off into the depths of the gulf.

Thank you to EVERYONE who was down at the beach that assisted with our catch. We had people taking pics , holding tail ropes & de-hookers. Especially the other anglers who had to reel up as she charged down the beach like a freight train destroying any and all tackle in her path. I couldn’t of asked for a better group of people to be fishing with. Every one was kind and helpful. This was a fish of a lifetime. The chain of events that lead up to this was crazy. I learned so much assisting Andrew with catching this fish. I hope for a recapture on her one day, I would love to see where she travels from here.

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