Mount Pleasant family reclaims bonnethead shark world record
It must be something in the water.
Size: Up to 5 feet. The smallest hammerhead shark species.
Diet: Crabs, shrimp and small fish.
South Carolina range: Shallow coastal waters.
Behavior: Relatively docile and abundant among 39 shark species found offshore South Carolina. Are eaten by larger sharks.
Lifespan: 6 to 7 years. Oldest known bonnethead recaptured off South Carolina in 2011 by an S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist. Estimated age, 17 years.
Source: New England Aquarium, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, International Union for Conservation of Nature, College of Charleston
Nine-year-old Eliza Taylor of Mount Pleasant recently received confirmation that a 20-pound, 9-ounce bonnethead shark she caught in August has been recognized by the International Game Fish Association as the women’s 20-pound-line class world record.
Four years earlier, Margaret Taylor, Eliza’s mother, caught a 15-pound, 8-ounce bonnethead that set the IGFA women’s 20-pound-line class world record at the time.
Technically, Eliza didn’t break her mother’s record. A Florida woman who has 100 world records to her name came to Charleston in 2009 and broke Margaret’s record. But now that world record is back in the Taylor family.
“I didn’t know it was a record until a couple of days ago. Dad (Gray Taylor) went online to look at the record holder, and my name was up there,” said Eliza, a fourth-grader at Buist Academy.
Eliza said the record bonnethead was one of a number of sharks caught on Aug. 5 near McClellanville. In addition to her mother and father, her sister Emma, 13, and friend Anna Vatalaro also were aboard the boat.
“It took about five minutes maybe. It fought pretty hard, so it seemed like a long time,” Eliza said. “I would get it close to the boat and then it would see the boat and run away.”
Finally, her father was able to secure and weigh the shark to see if it might qualify for a record.
“You have to weigh it on land, so we pulled over to a sandbar, hopped out and weighed the fish, measured the fish and took all the photos,” said Gray, who added that they were able to release the shark alive.
When Margaret caught her then-record bonnethead on July 26, 2008, near Morris Island, they had to bring the fish in to get an approved weight.
The bonnethead quest began many years ago for Gray, an attorney and avid fisherman. He read stories about record catches and began investigating. He joined IGFA to get a close look at the various line-class records, many of which were set in the Charleston area. The 20-pound class seemed the most achievable. Margaret’s 15½-pound catch more than doubled the original 20-pound-line women’s record. Eliza’s catch beat Heather Michelle Harkavy’s record by 3 pounds, 1 ounce.
“(Bonnetheads) are one of the few things in the summer that you can almost be guaranteed to catch,” Gray said.
The all-tackle record for the bonnethead shark is 28 pounds and was caught June 28, 2012, near Daytona Beach.
Margaret recalled the excitement of her record catch four years ago.
“I kept telling Gray it was heavy and asked him to help. But he said, ‘No, it might be a record, so you have to do it yourself.’
“It was kind of funny. His mom was on the boat and she was getting on him for not helping me.”
IGFA rules state that a record catch must be unassisted.
Gray said chasing world-record sharks adds a little fun to summer fishing.
“In July and August it’s hot and not much else is biting.”