When a Texas surf fisher caught an 11-foot hammerhead last week, she discovered that several others must have hooked the shark before her.
Angler Jen Merchant, a fishing guide on North Padre Island, spent her Labor Day surf fishing for sharks alongside her husband, Tim, and friend Dustin Hickey. She told the story of her shark catch and release in a YouTube video titled “My PB Hammerhead.”
From the top of a silver truck on the Texas coast, she battled a “dinosaur fish” as she worked to reel it in, the video shows.
In what she called a “really good fight,” it took Merchant about 45 minutes to reel in the giant fish, mysanantonio.com reported.
That fish was an 11 1/2-foot great hammerhead, Merchant wrote in a public Facebook post. It was also her “personal best shark” catch.
But she likely wasn’t the first angler to hook this hammerhead.
“We got the fish in and we noticed that it had been hooked several times by other people and I guess it got away,” she said in the video. “It still had big drops hanging out of his mouth and we are actually pulling other hooks out of this fish’s mouth.”
The video shows Merchant and her crew wrestling with the fish hooks in the hammerhead’s mouth.
“In the corner you can see where the old drop had actually injured him and was rubbing his jaw wrong,” she said. “I bet this fish was totally relieved that we were able to get this hook out and that he was able to swim away without that being there to hinder him anymore.”
After removing the hooks, she said her team tagged the shark, got a DNA sample and took a photo for the Texas Shark Rodeo.
Merchant also pulled the hammerhead’s mouth open for what she called her “money shot” photo before releasing the “beast.”
Then, together, two men can be seen pulling the shark away from shore and out to sea. Once they had the hammerhead “back to deep water,” they turned it around and the shark “swam away good.”
“My favorite part about catching a fish like this is letting it go,” Merchant said. “That release — it’s amazing.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife provides anglers like Merchant with “Catch and Release Techniques for Sharks” on its website. Those tips include shark safety advice, including removing the hook “as soon as possible following landing of the shark” and minimizing time the shark is out of water.
“Proper handling increases the chance that a shark will survive the release,” the wildlife department says. “The internal organs of many species of shark are loosely held in place by connective tissue. In the water, these organs are supported, but if the shark is lifted by the tail, the tissue may tear, causing damage to the organs.”
Great hammerheads are known to be found in the Texas gulf waters, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife
“Great hammerheads are large, even by shark standards, growing to more than 15 feet long,” the department says. “Large as they are, these sharks can turn quickly with the help of their broad, flat heads.”