A group of anglers that was skunked during its hunt for giant bluefin tuna last year made up for that effort this year with the recent capture of a monstrous tuna weighing 920 pounds.
The 9-foot-long tuna, which was landed after a three-hour battle, was caught off Massachusetts aboard Huntress, which is featured on National Geographic’s show “Wicked Tuna.”
(The following video has been shortened to show the tuna as it’s being gaffed and hauled onto the boat. Viewers can click here to watch the 6-minute version. Warning: there is some profanity.)
Capt. Kevin Leonowert stated on his Facebook page that this was the largest bluefin tuna to have been brought into Gloucester Harbor this year.
Gregg Looney, one of the anglers, told the Lowell Sun: “I couldn’t believe the power of this thing. It almost ripped my shoulder out. It looked like a whale. Just an absolute monster. But we did it.”
Another angler who teamed in the effort was Michael St. Jean, who said: “I couldn’t move my arms. You get to the point where you’re looking for the guy behind you to switch out.”
The anglers took shifts of 15 minutes during the epic struggle.
Atlantic bluefin can reach enormous sizes. For the sake of comparison, the world record is a 1,496-pound specimen captured by Ken Fraser off Nova Scotia in 1979.
However, Atlantic bluefin stocks have declined significantly over the past several decades and the fishery is strictly regulated.
The tuna caught aboard Huntress engulfed a mackerel only 15 minutes after it was cast.
“It usually takes all day to see one or get one,” said Brian Keefe, another angler who participated in the catch. “We had just dropped the anchor and weren’t even set up yet. It was nuts.”
The tuna dragged the vessel more than 4 miles during the battle.
Leonowert, who has been fishing for 30 years, said the bluefin was leaner and stronger than many of the larger tuna he has caught, including a 1,078-pounder in 2011.
“I’ve had a lot of hours on the ocean and this was definitely up there for tough battles,” he told the Sun.
“Wicked Tuna” is a reality show that features Gloucester captains as they strive and compete to catch the biggest tuna. But there was no film crew aboard for this particular charter.
As for the giant fish, Leonowert sold it for $4,000. It was a disappointing price, but the market has a surplus and the tuna did not boast a high fat content, which would have significantly boosted the price.
The anglers said that next year they’ll charter the same boat on the same date and, being superstitious, they’ll wear the same clothes.
Said Looney: “We’ll probably never catch one like that again, but we’ll still have a blast.”