Albert Zertuche has been fishing Bob Hall Pier in Corpus Christi, Texas since he was 12 years old. He’s caught thousands of sharks from the pier which juts out 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, but last month he hooked, battled, landed and then released the catch of a lifetime – a 12.5-foot tiger shark that was estimated to weigh well over 1,000 pounds. The shark is a Bob Hall Pier record, a Texas state record and could go down as the largest tiger shark ever caught and released from a pier. Click here for video of this epic fight.
Zertuche made it out to the pier by 4 p.m. August 19. He planned to spend the entire weekend at the pier and fish through the night. This was typical for Zertuche, who has made a name for himself on the pier as one of the most dedicated and successful fishermen.
Later that evening, one of Zertuche’s friends rigged up a sting ray and paddled it out with his kayak. He dropped the ray 600 yards off the pier. Then they waited. At 4:55 a.m. on Saturday morning, the tiger shark hit.
Line screamed off of Zertuche’s reel as the tiger shark made its way out to sea. He knew it was a big fish right away, so he waited a few extra seconds before setting the hook. “5 minutes into the fight I knew it was 8-feet plus. 15 minutes into the fight I knew it was 10-feet plus. 30 minutes into the fight I knew it was … really big,” Zertuche says.
The shark took 200 yards of line on it’s first run, but that was just the beginning. On its most furious run, the big tiger stripped 400 yards of line in one shot. By then, a small crowd of Zertuche’s friends had gathered to watch the fight.
Zertuche knew he was dealing with a tiger shark, but there were skeptics. Some of the other Bob Hall Pier fishermen didn’t believe tigers could be caught off the Pier. When Zertuche mentioned that he’d caught tiger sharks off the pier before, they scoffed. “I knew if I could catch this fish they’d have their foot in their mouth down to their knee cap,” Zertuche says.
After about an hour and five minutes Zertuche finally got the shark to the pier. But the fish was still too green and Zertuche was worried that the it would break off in the pylons, so he backed off the drag and let the fish take one last run. In another 20 minutes he had the fish whipped.
But getting the shark to the pier was only half the battle. Bob Hall Pier sits 15 feet above the ocean, and you can’t exactly net a 12.5-foot tiger shark. While Zertuche held the shark steady in the surf, one of his friends slipped a rope around the line and slid it down to the leader. He tightened the rope around one of Zertuche’s weights and then they began to walk the shark to the beach.
They got the shark into about a foot of water before they unhooked it brought out the measuring tape. Zertuche says the only point he was nervous during the whole process was when he had to stand in front of the shark and remove the hook. Luckily the hook slipped out with one tug.
The shark measured 150 inches long and had a 76-inch girth. Zertuche estimates that it weighed well over 1,000 pounds. “I could hear the tape just rolling and rolling. Then I heard them call out 150 inches,” Zertuche says.
The world record tiger shark was famously caught by Walter Maxwell in 1964 off of a pier in South Carolina. Maxwell’s shark measured 13 feet, 10.5 inches and had a girth of 103 inches. It weighed an incredible 1,783 pounds.
It took six men to push Zertuche’s shark back into the water. At one point Zertuche and his friends were standing in waist-deep water with the big tiger. Zertuche tickled the shark’s belly to revive her and it wasn’t long before the shark disappeared into the surf. “That’s when the celebration began,” Zertuche says.
While Zertuche’s catch will fall short of the world record, he could claim the record for the largest tiger shark to ever be caught and released from a pier. During the fight, some of the spectators encouraged Zertuche to kill the shark once he got it in, but he was set on catch and release. Pictured: Some of Zertuche’s other catches from Bob Hall Pier.
Zertuche participates in a shark tagging program run out of Texas A&M University. The program distributes tags to anglers who tag the sharks they catch. Then if one of the tagged sharks is caught again, the tag requests the angler to call it in. The program is designed to get a better understanding of shark migration patterns and travel routes, which are still mostly unknown.
Over the last 6 months, Zertuche has tagged more than 200 sharks for the program, including his huge tiger. On record, no one has ever caught, tagged and released a tiger shark from a pier in the state of Texas before this.
Zertuche has spent countless hours fishing from Bob Hall Pier. After he landed his tiger shark he kept fishing straight through until Sunday morning.
He makes his own fishing equipment ( Z’s Custom Fish and Tackle) and has earned sponsorships by a handful of tackle companies like Avet, Bull Busters and Breakaway Tackle. Pictured: One of Zertuche’s friends
Over the years Zertuche has caught a wide variety of species off the pier including drum, flounder, barracuda, kingfish, jack crevalle, tarpon and 13 different species of sharks.
What does Zertuche have to say for himself after hauling in the largest tiger shark the Lone Star State has ever seen? “I want to dedicate the catch to my 5-year-old son Nikolas,” he says. More Shark Coverage on Outdoor Life
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After fishing through the night, Albert Zertuche hooked into this 12.5-foot tiger shark and hauled it to the beach. It’s the biggest tiger shark ever caught in Texas.