How I caught a 112Kg Big Eye Tuna
I was very lucky to be in Ascension Island, a remote island in the South Atlantic, in April 2006 during a special week when the bait fish came inshore and attracted all kind of predators. The trip had been organized with the invaluable help of Colin Chester and with two other friends from the London International Club, Mike Bradshaw and Glenn Cooke.
In the morning of the 8th day of the trip we noticed a lot of bird and fish activity half a mile off the island. We quickly reached the area with our boat and dived for over 4 hours in crystal clear water following a massive school of bait fish. This was one of the best diving and spearfishing experiences in my life.
The fry was as thick as a wall. Millions of fish moving in perfect coordination. The school opened from time to time, creating some big holes, when big Black Jack, Amberjack, Rainbow Runner and Bonito swam into it like torpedos and fed on the fish. I dived several times in the school and laid at the bottom looking at this amazing sight. The fry was so thick that there was little light filtering at the bottom. The fish were attacked from all sides and squeezed by the big Amberjacks (up to 20 kg) at the bottom, the Jacks and Frigate birds at the top and the Rainbow Runners and Bonito from the sides. It was an amazing experience and great fishing too. I loved predating on the predators and waiting in the fry without knowing what would come next (and hoping it would not be a shark given that there are plenty on the island). After 3h of selective fishing I ended up with a lovely catch of two Amberjack – one of 20kg -, two Bonito of 10kg and 12 kg and 4 Rainbow Runners of 6 to 8kg. It was a fantastic time and I could not imagine that the best had yet to come.
In the afternoon, after Colin caught some bait fish with the net, we moved to another place three miles off the island, in search for Tuna. This is a great spot on the route of large pelagic predators, with depths in excess of 250m. It is close to a spot where the team landed several Yellow Fin tuna and Wahoo the previous days. We also saw two huge Black Marlin in the area … In short, this is the place where anything can happen. Unfortunately it is also the place where, one month before we arrived, a huge Tiger Shark ate a whole tuna in one bite in front of the line fishermen who caught it and who were about to gaffe it…
Big Tuna in range…
After chumming for a while the tuna started to appear from the blue. We were diving in pairs, with two people on the boat responsible for the chumming and two divers in the water. Glenn and Colin immediately landed two Yellow Fin of 30 and 35 kg. At 6pm it was my turn to be in water. I was with Glenn looking at the bait fish that Colin and Mike were chumming and which was sinking with the current. Suddenly, two big tuna appeared from the deep. Glenn tried to approach the first one but was unlucky. I noticed that the second fish was not interested in the bait but was somewhat curious about what was happening in the water. He swam in about -20m and followed a large semi-circle. I immediately dived trying to anticipate his moves and intercept him. I finned until I reached -12m and then planed down without moving. This gave him a bit more confidence and he came slightly up. I was exactly on his trajectory and gave a final burst of power with the carbon C4 fins to get within shooting range, with a 60 degrees angle from the fish. I could now see his big eye watching me. I stretched my arm with the Rob Allen 130 Carbon with double 16 mm band, aimed at the head and fired. This is the moment when I realised that he was huge: I knew from the surface that he was a big tuna however the spear hit the fish 2m behind the impact point that I was expecting… In the crystal clear water he was indeed bigger and further away than I thought. I heard “bonk” and realised with concern that the spear did not entirely go through the fish. It was however a good shot on the gills and the spear penetrated enough to hold him.
The Big Fight…
No time to think about the next move that the tuna took off like a torpedo, aiming vertically down in the blue. I started to swim up quickly hoping to get to the surface before my whole gear would disappear in the deep sea. I got to the surface just in time to grab the second float before it disappeared. The tuna had already taken 50m of line, the first 15 l float filled with foam, stretched a 6m bungee and still had enough energy to pool the second 35 litre Rob Allen float underwater. He was like a train. I opposed as much resistance as possible and eventually resurfaced with the second buoy.
A long fight ensued. The Tuna was still aiming for the bottom and constantly kept the first 15 litre float underwater. I fought the fish from the surface for 1 hour and 20 minutes and got dragged underwater a number of times. As soon as I gained 3m the fish would take them back. It was getting dark and I was concerned I would not have enough time to land it or worse that the fight would attract one of the large sharks present in the area and which we indeed saw in the following days. Fortunately, the fish was finally tired and allowed me to pool back about 15m of line.
Meanwhile Colin, Mike and Glenn watched me from the boat as I drifted 150m from it. They realised I shot something big and Colin kindly came to check that I was all right. After 10 minutes of further fighting we could see the fish swimming in about -15m. I wanted to share this amazing catch with Colin and asked him to put a second shot on the fish even though I knew this would cost a potential world record award. Colin is an exceptional spearo and a very good friend, and worked extremely hard for all of us during this trip to make it very special. He more than deserved this! He dived on the fish which was still swimming although slowly and shot the tuna behind the gills with his Rob Allen 1.4m speargun with 20mm band. To our surprise even his spear did not go through the fish entirely! Colin resurfaced and confirmed this was a “Bus”! After 10 more minutes of fighting the fish was finally subdued and I brought it back to the boat. The whole fight lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes and it was now getting dark so unfortunately there was no time to take good underwater pictures. I was however absolutely delighted with the catch and admired the size and beauty of this Big Eye Tuna!
An Award fish!
With the good help of Glenn and Colin, and me pushing from the water, we finally gaffed the fish and lifted it on the boat. He was indeed huge and eventually weighted 112 kg (245 lbs)! The tuna was donated to the local fishing community, save a few large fillets which tasted absolutely delicious!
The catch received a Meritorious Award from IUSA and weighted well above the previous catch of 86kg.
In the following days I was fortunate to have another opportunity and caught a second Big Eye Tuna of 60kg. Special thanks to Colin, Mike, Glenn and the London International Club for a very special trip!
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