Shark Week? That’s too confining. David Schmidt of Holly Ridge, N.C. and the Get Bent land-based shark-fishing team celebrate big sharks from late August through October, because that’s when they’re showing up off the beach of Topsail Island.
On Sept. 14, Schmidt paddled out his favorite bait and wound up getting bowed up with a beast ― a 12-foot-3 tiger shark estimated to weigh between 700 and 750 pounds.
Around 7:30 that evening, Schmidt and his teammates set up shop at their usual spot on the beach, and Schmidt hopped in his kayak to deliver a 10-pound chunk of tarpon about 500 yards out, where the water reaches 20-foot depths. After a good soak with the bait held in place by a 12-ounce spider weight, it was picked up close to 11:30 by a fast-moving target, and Schmidt strapped into his fighting harness to fight back.
“As soon as it hit, I knew it was a good fish,” Schmidt said, “because it wasn't like a slow roll or anything. That thing ate the bait and it was taking off quick.”
Despite its grand entrance, the shark’s strength seemed to wane, and that gave Schmidt the opportunity to gain line.
“It surprised me,” said Schmidt. “For the first 200 yards, I just kept my reel in high gear and pretty much reeled it right in. There wasn't much fight to it. Once it got about 200 yards from the beach, in shallower water, I think it realized what was going on. It kicked it up a notch and started peeling 60 to 70 pounds of drag. I knew it was a big fish; it was just acting like it wasn't. It hit that first sandbar, and it started freaking out and fighting pretty good.”
Schmidt battled the fish for 30 minutes with an 18/0 Everol 2-speed reel spooled with 200-pound, Jerry Brown hollow-core braid before it came close enough for Austin Dishman and Joe Gonzalez to wade out and grab the 50-foot, 1,200-pound monofilament leader and start winching it up. Once in range, Nathan Zrubek applied the tail rope, and the team heaved it onto the beach with the rolling waves, where Schmidt got a quick measurement and a few pictures after the fish was unhooked from the 20/0 circle hook and steel-bite leader.
Then, they reversed the procedure, spun the shark around and hauled it back out, using the crashing waves to float it enough to pull. Once in waist deep water, Schmidt handled the revival personally.
“It took about 5 to 10 minutes of me walking her down the beach a little way,” he said. “I was getting the oxygen flowing over her gills, and then she kicked off, went into the water, and we didn't see her again.”