Record size hammerhead shark released out of respect

A pair of South Carolina anglers on Wednesday caught and released a hammerhead shark that was at least 400 pounds heavier than the longstanding state record, and perhaps rivaled the world record.

Primary angler Pete Quartuccio and a friend teamed to reel the nearly 14-foot shark to leader after an hourlong fight, whereupon it was tagged and set free by Outcast Sportfishing Capt. Chip Michalove.

Michalove estimated the shark’s weight at 1,000-plus pounds. The current South Carolina record, set in 1989, stands at 588 pounds. The world record is a 1,280-pound catch in 2006 off Boca Grande, Fla.

The shark put up such a ferocious struggle, Michalove said, that Quartuccio and his buddy were too exhausted to pose for photos while the massive predator was alongside the boat.

“They were so exhausted they could barely stand,” Michalove said. “Pete crashed on the cooler and laid there in exhaustion, and his friend was so tired that I barely convinced him to just hold the camera while I reached over and grabbed the shark’s head for one quick photo.

“I tried to get them to lean over for a picture, but they wouldn’t budge. So I threw a quick tag in the shark, popped the hook and sent her off.”

Michalove said he spotted the same hammerhead circling a bait during a Tuesday charter. On Wednesday, close to shore in rough weather, Quartuccio, a veteran shark angler, was at the rod when the shark took his bait.

“She ripped off 400 yards in about 60 seconds,” Michalove recalled. “I released from the anchor and spun the boat to chase [the shark]. I knew she was going to be enormous, but I didn’t know of the enormity until we got her a little closer and I could see the width.”

The group knew the shark might eclipse the world record in size, but at no point considered killing the shark to obtain an official weight.

Said Michalove: “Fifteen years ago, I would’ve thrown a rope around her head and dragged her back to demolish the records. But these sharks have given me a good life and they’re too important to our fishery.

“We’ve recaptured so many tigers, lemons, bulls, I owe them everything. I’ve gotten a few messages on how I should’ve dragged her back, but there’s not even a question that we did the right thing.”