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Half-Ton Hammerhead Caught and Released Off South Carolina Coast (13 feet long)

This hammerhead shark was over 13 feet long. Credit: Chip Michalove
This hammerhead shark was over 13 feet long. Credit: Chip Michalove

A remarkable fishing event recently took place off the coast of South Carolina when a half-ton hammerhead shark was caught and released. This massive catch would have shattered the state record and potentially threatened the world record. The story involves the collaboration of renowned charter captain Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing and his accomplished angler friend, Pete Quartuccio.

The Initial Sighting

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

On July 12, while guiding a family near Hilton Head, Michalove first spotted the 13-1/2-foot hammerhead. Known as “the great white shark whisperer” for his expertise in locating and catching apex predators, Michalove watched the hammerhead follow his bait for a significant 10 to 15 minutes without striking. He captured the encounter on video, which he later posted on his Facebook page.

“It’s very common for me to see a hammerhead and have it not take the bait,” Michalove told Field and Stream. “Then I see the shark in the same spot a day or two later and we hook it.”

Change of Plans

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

The following day, Michalove’s longtime client and friend Pete Quartuccio arrived for a scheduled outing. Due to rough conditions at their planned fishing spot, Michalove suggested a change in plans. He informed Quartuccio about the large hammerhead seen the previous day, hinting at the possibility of encountering it again.

Accomplished Shark Fishermen

This hammerhead shark was over 13 feet long. Credit: Chip Michalove
This hammerhead shark was over 13 feet long. Credit: Chip Michalove

Both Michalove and Quartuccio are seasoned shark fishermen. Quartuccio, hailing from Newport News, Virginia, has extensive knowledge of inlets from New York to the Florida Keys and a background in shark fishing that began in his teenage years under the tutelage of legendary shark fisherman Frank Mundus. Michalove, on the other hand, has set several state fishing records and holds a special permit to catch and tag great whites for research purposes. Over his career, he has tagged more than 30 great whites, including two weighing over 3,000 pounds.

The Epic Catch

Close up of hammerhead shark in the deep blue ocean waters. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Upon arriving at the spot where the hammerhead was previously seen, the duo started with a small blacktip shark on their first cast and a 220-pound lemon shark on the second. Their third cast, however, resulted in hooking the massive hammerhead. The battle was intense, with the shark dragging their boat for about four miles.

“We knew we’d hooked either a tiger or a hammerhead shark by the way it fought,” Quartuccio recounted. “After a while, when she just kept on smoking the reel, we looked at each other and said at the same time, ‘Hammer.’”

The Release

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

South Carolina fishing regulations permit a bag limit of one hammerhead shark per vessel per day. Despite this, the men decided to tag and release the shark. Michalove attached a National Marine Fisheries Service tag to its dorsal fin and posed for a quick photo before watching the shark swim away.

“It was not only an epic catch, but the release was better than any release I’ve ever seen,” said Quartuccio. “We were all tired, but she just bolted.”

Michalove estimated the shark weighed well over 1,000 pounds. While they recognized the potential records they were forfeiting, there was no debate about releasing the shark. “The girth on that shark was so insane,” said Michalove. “It would’ve demolished the state record, and there’s a good chance it would’ve broken the world record, but there was never any debate on whether we should throw a rope around its head [to kill it]. We never even considered it. It’s too beautiful a fish to kill just to be in a record book.”

Unique Head Shape

Hammerhead shark in the aquarium. The great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) is the largest species of hammerhead shark, belonging to the family Sphyrnidae. Atlantis, Sanya, island Hainan, China. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks are easily recognizable due to their distinctive head shape, known as a cephalofoil. This unique structure improves their sensory perception and helps them find prey more effectively.

Enhanced Vision

Rare 14-foot pregnant hammerhead shark washes up on Alabama beach with 40 pups
Image via Pexels

The wide-set eyes of hammerhead sharks provide them with a better visual range than most other sharks. They can see above and below them simultaneously, giving them a unique advantage when hunting.

Sensory Superpowers

hammerhead
A hammerhead shark in malpelo island Colombia. Depositphotos

Hammerhead sharks possess highly developed sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini. These allow them to detect electric fields produced by prey, even those hidden under sand.

Size Variations

Hammerhead Shark
Image via Pixabay

There are nine species of hammerhead sharks, ranging in size from the smaller bonnethead, which grows up to 3 feet, to the great hammerhead, which can reach lengths of up to 20 feet.

Social Behavior

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Unlike many other shark species, hammerhead sharks are known to form large schools during the day, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. These schools usually disband at night when they hunt alone.

Migration Patterns

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks are known for their long migrations. Some species travel great distances to find food or suitable breeding grounds, often covering thousands of miles.

Reproduction

Hammerhead shark in Bahamas,underwater picture. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks give birth to live young, known as pups. Depending on the species, a female can give birth to anywhere from 12 to 40 pups at a time.

Diet

Hammerhead shark in Bahamas,underwater picture. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks primarily feed on fish, squid, octopuses, and crustaceans. Some species also hunt other sharks and stingrays, using their unique head shape to pin down their prey.

Habitat Range

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks inhabit warm, temperate, and tropical waters worldwide. They are commonly found in coastal areas and around islands, as well as in the open ocean.

Lifespan

Hammerhead shark swimming
Hammerhead shark swimming. Pexcels

The lifespan of hammerhead sharks varies by species, but they generally live between 20 to 30 years in the wild. Some individuals have been known to live even longer.

Threats from Humans

Hammerhead shark in Bahamas,underwater picture. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks face significant threats from human activities. Overfishing, habitat destruction, and the shark fin trade have led to declines in their populations, with some species now listed as endangered.

Conservation Efforts

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Conservation efforts are underway to protect hammerhead sharks. Various organizations are working to implement fishing regulations, create marine protected areas, and conduct research to better understand these sharks.

Cultural Significance

Hammerhead shark in Bahamas,underwater picture

Hammerhead sharks hold cultural significance in many coastal communities. They are often featured in folklore and are considered symbols of strength and resilience.

Nighttime Hunters

Hammerhead shark in Bahamas,underwater picture. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

Hammerhead sharks are primarily nocturnal hunters. They rely on their enhanced senses to locate prey in the dark, making them efficient predators during nighttime.

Great Hammerhead’s Threat Status

Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto
Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

The great hammerhead shark, the largest of the hammerhead species, is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This highlights the urgent need for conservation measures to protect this iconic species.

Conclusion

3D rendering of shark fin above water, with blue sky background. Hammerhead Shark Image via Depositphoto

This story underscores the thrill of the catch and the commitment to conservation. The decision to release such a magnificent creature reflects a deep respect for marine life, ensuring that future generations can experience the same awe-inspiring encounters.

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