NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH — With only two years of experience in land based shark fishing, David Schmidt of Holly Ridge considers himself relatively new to the sport. But he didn’t waste any time getting up to speed. With a 10-pound false albacore as bait, he beached a behemoth tiger shark on June 29th from North Topsail Beach that measured 11 feet and 7 inches long, with an estimated weight of nearly 700 pounds.
Although shark fisherman often suffer a bad rap for mistakenly being thought to attract sharks, Schmidt is quick to explain that they were only fishing the area because the predators were already on the scene.
“We chose the area specifically because of all the catches that were being reported off the island of very large tarpon,” said Schmidt. “We knew that there would be larger sharks feeding on them. There’s also a lot of turtle nests in the area and tiger sharks love eating sea turtles.”
After kayaking his bait between 400 and 500 yards away from shore, he and a group of friends that make up their Get Bent Land Based Shark Fishing Team settled in to wait for a bite at about 8 o’clock that evening, their normal routine for avoiding swimmers and beach traffic.
“It hit the bait rather quickly, within 15 minutes after I deployed it,” said Schmidt. “Right away, line started screaming off my reel. I knew it was a good shark. Once I got into the harness, bumped my drag up, and started fighting it, it started peeling line off my reel at over 50 pounds of drag. Then, I knew it was an exceptional shark; it wasn’t the normal 7 to 8 footers that we get around here.
“It took off and ran long and hard a couple of times,” said Schmidt. “But, the fight itself didn’t really take that long, 20 to 25 minutes. I use a really strong rod and reel setup so I can bring the fish in and release it as soon as possible.”
The tools of Schmidt’s trade consist of a 14/0 Everol reel mated to a stout, 6 and ½ foot stand-up rod made by H2O Rod Company. The combo winches in a 200 pound braided mainline with a top shot made of two hundred yards of 200-pound monofilament. The sandbar leader is 30 feet of 1,200 pound monofilament followed by a bite leader of 4 to 6 feet of No. 25 single strand wire attached to a 24/0 circle hook. The leaders are connected with 1,000-pound barrel swivels and anchored to the ocean floor by an 18-ounce spider sinker.
With the shark on land, Schmidt and the team swept into action; unhooking, measuring, and snapping pictures before dragging it back into waist deep water. There, they walked the fish about in the shallows to resuscitate it. After a few minutes of water flowing over its gills, the shark gave two big tail kicks and swam away unharmed.
Although the team frequently tags sharks for NOAA’s Apex Predators Program, Schmidt waived this procedure in the interest of the animal.
“Since this was such a large shark, I was more concerned about its welfare,” he said. “I wanted to get it back into the ocean to swim away.”
Dusty Wilson is a staff writer for North Carolina Sportsman magazine.