Author: Wade Senti
Public Exposure Serves As An Opportunity To Set A Good Example (Quick Healthy Release)
The day began with a late start, we had planned to be at our spot before sunrise for an early morning set of bait drops. We arrived around 9am to the spot that just about a year ago (September 2016) we experienced the largest shark we’ve ever come across and had our 600 lb. leader shredded. That Penn 12/0 at full drag was a goner. Since then we’ve upgraded our equipment significantly - we now came prepared.
" the pace of this run led me to believe I was hooked up to something bigger than normal."
Despite my usual crew spending the holiday away from Florida, a buddy and I decided to make a go at it for the day. He brought his old school Penn International 80w filled up with 80 lb Bullbuster mono and I brought two heavy conventional reel setups - a tuned up Penn 12/0 and an Everol T-Shot 80, both with 125 lb Bullbuster mono on top. I also brought along a spinning setup for tossing in the trough and a heavy surf rod for tossing lures into the surf. We planned for a long day of fishing.
"My Penn 12/0 began screaming, the sound that could wake some out of a coma"
The day was slow, there was not much activity, even though we had dropped 3 shark baits (all Bonita) with the kayak at ranges of 150 yards to about 300 yards off the beach. We fished the trough in the meantime for better bait and just lounged under our sunshade tent to stay out of the blistering heat.
" I slowly clamped down on the drag... testing a recently installed drag insert upgrade... I was determined to limit the fight length."
As the afternoon dragged on we decided to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. It was hour five with our baits soaking, we figured the crabs had gotten the Bonita. While on a usual day we would have prepared with a cooler full of baits, today we winged it, frozen Bonita from the local bait store.
"nature's fighting chair, the rod butt buried in the sand."
Around 2:45pm I saw my buddies rod bend and something was taking out line, we had our first run. He ran out of the water to manage what may have been something big, but it just took the bait. We saw some activity with my rod, but figured a sea turtle had crossed over the line. The day was finally getting interesting.
"This public exposure made for all the more reason to make sure to set a good example with this big shark."
Around 3:00pm my Penn 12/0 began screaming, the sound that could wake some out of a coma, I quickly ran over to it and told my buddy to grab the plate and harness, the pace of this run led me to believe I was hooked up to something bigger than normal. I grabbed the rod and gave a few more seconds of free run, while we got the plate/harness situated. I slowly clamped down on the drag, I was testing a recently installed drag insert upgrade. Given the gear ratio of my Penn Senator and my own fatigue (as well as the sharks’), I was determined to limit the fight length.
We quickly had issues with the plate and harness and made a switch to nature's fighting chair, the rod butt buried in the sand. I was able to preserve my back and get the necessary leverage to slowly bring the shark in. I never lost any gain with my upgraded drag, but their were many moments of standstill, I just held on.
"At the 25 minute mark I had my first sighting of the shark as it passed south"
At around the 10 minute mark I looked to my right (south) and saw a guy videotaping and narrating the event (he had a good radio voice), I wasn’t thinking much of it, I had to get my team focused and positioned to land and release whatever was on the line. As it turns out, I was on Facebook Live for the entire 36 minutes that I hooked up and released the hammerhead. This public exposure made for all the more reason to make sure to set a good example with this big shark.
At around the 15 minute mark my handle grip began coming loose (fantastic). I had put Loctite on the screw to the arm, but apparently that did not prevent it from doing so. With every 3-4 cranks I would hand tighten the screw to the grip, so far so good. It was at this point I knew I had to get everyone positioned correctly. I instructed my buddy to get the rope and to coordinate our tools (vise-grip, pliers, wire/cable cutters). I had his sister reel in the remaining shark rod to prevent any tangle ups and had their mother control any curious viewers from getting in the way. Overall, superb job.
At the 25 minute mark I had my first sighting of the shark as it passed south, it was big, something over 9 ft. and likely even longer than 10 ft. However, It was the second pass that I saw the dorsal fin, it was a hammerhead. This was when I knew my leadership was critical. We were being filmed (live) on Facebook (with a story to come) and with someone's footage that eventually found its way to NBC News. I had to get this beautiful creature right back out.
This last stretch was critical, we needed to land it, while keeping it near the trough to get it back out quickly. I manned the rod and had my buddy and his mother attempt to rope it to get it on the sand. They were able to get it on the sand, landed, partial relief.
However, I was exhausted, my left hand was completely numb, and I was the only one with expertise to get this beauty back out fast. I quickly gave the rod to someone (I think my buddy) and went down to survey the circle hook, normally easy to get out (I debarb all circle hooks), but I was too fatigued. I quickly yelled for the cable cutters, nowhere near. I sprinted up to the tent, found them, and cut the 600 lb leader at the hook and began pulling the shark back out.
After releasing this beauty and walking up the beach I bent over and threw up, I was physically and emotionally drained. We fish at remote beaches, but with our luck this was a holiday and there were plenty of witnesses to this event. We prefer to do this sport more in private and not at the judgment of others, let alone +30k viewers online (video - never read the comments ).
As I walked up to the tent to conclude the day, I was approached by the camera guy (he was a reporter), he told me they were writing a story the next day , I gave him a thumbs up and walked away. I later reached out to make sure I controlled the story with my message and the facts.
So a happy ending to my first hammerhead and one of the largest sharks I’ve landed to date. I'm excited to chase some even bigger sharks along the beaches of Central Florida with my Bullbuster mono. I could tow a truck with this stuff!
My buddy (Pete Filiberto) and I relaxing post-release of the shark
Reel - Penn Senator 12/0:
Upgraded drag insert kit (double or 2.5x drag at least)
Stainless steel gear sleeve with other stainless components (dog)
Stainless steel frame posts
Power handle / larger grip
375 yards of 125# Bullbuster mono (blue)
600 yards of 200# JB Hollow braid backing (spliced nicely over the mono thanks to my buddies over at Strike-Zone Fishing in Melbourne, FL)
5 - 6 ft 600# steel coated leader (purchased with hook crimped)
10 ft. (approx.) 300# mono shock leader (homemade)
20/0 circle hook (debarbed)
Refurbished 7 ft. 100-130 lb rod with new AFTCO Big Foot heavy duty tip installed
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