Southern Bluefin Tuna Record

Waihau Bay is a magic place and has been a holiday destination for our family for generations, beginning with my grandfather taking my father there every year. When I was 10, my dad allowed me to start tagging along on those long days towing plastic and experience it for myself.

Now the tradition continues – each summer for the last few years I have been taking my own boat to Waihau and my wife and daughter tag along. It’s only been in recent years that  we began fishing the winter bluefin season. With a pretty good understanding of the area, we have been lucky enough to secure some of these special fish. So with my mates chomping at the bit to get out and try secure their first bluefin, I hatched a plan to wait until towards the end of June and hope for a weather window.

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June finally rolled around, and a more concrete plan was made. We arrived late on a Wednesday night at Hicks Bay and had a brief chat to our mate who was heading to work the following morning but had given us the run through of where to launch out of the channel and how to get this so called mint-running tractor started. The next morning, the 6am alarm rang and my two crew mates Carl Carmody and Calum McKay were already awake and itching at the bit to hook the boat on to this tractor and get out there. Well, this is where our day of unbelievable luck started – the tractor showed no signs of life at all. We made the call that we would have to tow start it and let it a run for a while to make sure there was enough charge for when we returned, as we would have to hook the boat on and make a quick exit from the surf. Half an hour later going up and down the road we had had enough and were about to give up on trying to start the old girl when Calum gave it one more try. Smoke puffed from her dormant engine and she started purring away. With the gear loaded and a successful launch, our spirits were propped back up. We began our punch out into a slightly less than ideal sloppy sea.

When we arrived to where I thought would be a good area to set the lures we were immediately greeted with promising signs of bait on the sounder and several mutton birds scouting the area. We had been marking bait solidly for an hour and started hearing reports of multiple people having luck further down the coast at Waihau when "bang", the rigger popped and that Tiagra began singing its song. We were hooked up and the fish was taking line at a fairly steady pace. I began clearing the gear while Carl started putting on his gimbal and harness and Calum kept the boat on course. With gear cleared and carl now settled into the fight, the fish continued to take line and would of had close to 600m out before we started to chase it down.

We gained line steadily for the first 20 minutes and had the fish within about 150m when it decided to head down and began to really hold its own. With 60kg tackle, we had around 12kg of drag on it and it still continued to run more line off the reel. The crew was operating like a well-oiled machine as we worked the fish within 50 metres of the boat multiple times over the next half an hour. At the 50 minute mark, the fish was back to within 50m of the boat after a few more runs, and this time it was staying on the surface. We tacked slightly closer to gain line and tried not to pull too hard on the fish, realizing now we had most probably worn a good size hole in its mouth and the chances of slipping the hook could be high. With about 25m to go, the fish came right to the surface and we all got a clear view of its back and tail thrashing out of the water. It was a big fish, no doubt about it.

With a few more metres gained and the boat at a good angle to the fish, the swivel approached, and I was able to grab hold of the 300lb leader. The fish made a few good attempts of heading under the boat but with its second attempt of cutting around, we sunk the flying gaff in, and our catch was secured! We were all in awe of the size of this giant tuna. Celebratory hand-shakes were given and let's say the smile on Carl's face said it all!

The next 30 minutes or so involved a lot of trial and error as we tried to figure out how to lift such a stocky fish over the side of my 5.5m Marco. When the fish finally slid into the deck and we got a true gauge on the length and girth of this fish, we began placing our bets on the weight, and let's just say we were all well out with the heaviest guess being 135kg. We bled the tuna slid it as best we could into our old surf board bag that we usually use for marlin.

It took us a while to get the tractor started again, but we managed to get it sorted after some more mucking around, and then we quickly got out of our wet clothes and made our way to Waihau. When it was finally our turns at the scales, the fish was lifted up. A fair crowd had gathered around us now to see what the final weight would be when the scales settled on161.2kg – we had just caught a world record size fish! Handshakes and hugs were shared between us as we were elated with this result. We signed the paper work for the fish, and then took some photos and line samples which have been sent away for it to be ratified. We are now eagerly awaiting confirmation of Carl's new 60kg SBT world record!

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