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Date of Issue: June 01, 2006

Cortez hosts record hammerhead shark

Shark Bite
Shark Bite

A huge hammerhead shark caused more commotion ashore last week than it ever did in the water, as Cortez village hosted the marine giant on its way to Mote Marine Laboratory.

Caught on tackle off Boca Grande, it is a record for its kind that towed its captor far out to sea and fought savagely against its ultimate submission.

"It’s huge," said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co., where it was trucked to be frozen awaiting mounting by Mote Marine Laboratory. "It must be very old. What an unbecoming end to such a majestic creature."

She was hostess to half of Cortez and many other visitors who dropped in to the waterfront facility to see the shark.

At 14 feet, 3 inches and 1,280 pounds, it is the biggest hammerhead ever caught on tackle, the previous record being a 991-pounder caught off Sarasota in 1982, according to records kept by the International Gamefish Association.

Clyde "Bucky" Dennis, 34, of Port Charlotte, caught it, and that was no accident. He has been looking for a record hammerhead off Boca Grande, where the sharks’ major food, tarpon, began their run recently.

He used "a 6-foot stump-puller stand-up rod strapped to an 8/0 Penn reel loaded with 130-pound braided line. Bait was a 20-pound stingray on a 12/0 hook with 24 feet of 600-pound leader," said the St. Petersburg Times.

When the shark started to run, friends jumped aboard Dennis’ 23-foot boat to help. The shark towed them 12 miles into the Gulf before they could sink a flying gaff into it.

"After an intense struggle, they gaffed the shark around the dorsal fin, fought it for another 30 minutes, then sank a second gaff behind the right gills," said the Times. "A tail rope completed the capture."

Towing the huge animal back to Gasparilla Marina, Dennis backed a trailer into the water and pulled the shark aboard, got it weighed and notified Mote. There, Dr. Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research, called Bell to arrange to have it preserved by freezing until he could get it mounted for display at Mote.

Walter Bell, president of the company, said his plant had seen many sharks in its day, "but nothing as big as this.

"It looks like it had a bad day," he said. "I’ll bet half of Cortez had seen it by sundown - it’s more popular than all of us put together."