When land based shark fisherman David Schmidt of Holly Ridge heard the line peeling from his 18/0 Everol reel, he knew it was the biggest run of the year, but he didn’t know it would be one of his biggest sharks of the year. After an hour and a half tug of war on September 20th, he and the other members of the Get Bent Land Based Shark Fishing (LBSF) Team beached a massive, 12 foot, 2-inch hammerhead that had been marauding the waters off Topsail Beach.

After kayaking their baits out about 800 yards from shore near an area he believed to be laden with shell beds and other structure, Schmidt and company settled in and hoped for mayhem. An hour and a half later, the bait was picked up just after dark.

“It just took right off,” said Schmidt. “The run was unbelievable. I let it go for about a minute and then slammed the drag up to about 40 pounds and set the hook. It was ripping drag off the reel nonstop. I bumped it up to about 70 pounds; it still didn’t even slow down.  It probably took 200 to 300 yards of line out.”

Schmidt’s mainline was 1,500 yards of 200-pound braided line, topped with 500 yards of 200-pound monofilament, and crimped to 40 feet of 1,200-pound monofilament that connected to a 6-foot section of no. 25 single strand steel leader. The business end held a 20/0 circle hook that was harnessed with electrical wire to a 30-pound hunk of tarpon procured from a nearby pier fisherman and anchored by an 18-ounce spider weight. 

“We went back and forth for about an hour and a half,” said Schmidt. “I’d gain a little line and he’d take more out. When I got him about 100 yards off the beach, he finally quit fighting and came into the surf.

“We knew as soon as we saw that distinctive dorsal fin that it was a hammer head. It was probably about 4 feet high; looked like a submarine coming under the water. We had one guy pulling it onto the sand by the leader and my other friend tail-roped it. We got the hook out, got a measurement of it, and punched a tag in its back for NOAA’s Apex Predator Program.

“It took 3 of us to pull it back into the water. I got beside it and pulled it by its pec fin and its dorsal and started walking it out into the surf zone. We got the water flowing back into its gills again, it kicked a couple times, and then swam back off where it came from.”