One Giant Shark

Florida anglerlands mammoth hammerhead that should shatter old record by more than 250pounds

Captain Clyde "Bucky" Dennis was alone in his 23-foot flats skiff off of Boca Grande pass along the western coast of Florida when a giant hammerhead snatched the live, bleeding, 20-pound stingray at the end of his line. Immediately the monster began towing the 36-year-old Port Charlotte angle out to sea. It was 11:30 a.m. on May 23.

More than five hours later and 12 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, his back and legs battered and hurting, Dennis pulled the shark alongside his boat. If everything checks out, the beast will have shattered the 24-year-old IGFA great hammerhead record of 991 pounds. Dennis's shark tipped a state-certified truck weigh station scale at 1,280 pounds.

Shortly after his battle began amid a group of boats fishing for tarpon, Dennis's friend Brian Hart jumped into the angler's skiff. Dennis took the fighting chair. Past Boca Grande's second bell buoy, more of his buddies piled on board to help. Larry "Mack" McLean drove the first gaff hook through the dorsal five hours after the fight had started.

"After that first gaff she went ballistic," Dennis says. "That huge tail was really going. She sounded again. We'd tried ten times to get that first gaff in. She wore down in thirty more minutes, and we got a second hook in just behind the right gill slits."

"Then we got the tail rope on," Dennis recalls. "Once you've got that--or a head rope--you've got them locked. Unless you've got a small boat and the shark pulls you under."

That's what almost happened. The anglers tried sliding the shark across the aft deck, but the boat's stern quarter began sinking. Instead, they took nearly three hours to tow it to the marina. There the shark was loaded onto a boat trailer, and the following day it was donated to the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

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*For more on this story, go to outdoorlife.com/fishing.