By David Graham: 12-19-2023
Earlier this month I had a short notice opportunity to hop in on a group trip to the Outerbanks area of North Carolina chasing the iconic bluefin tuna.
While the bluefin is a world renowned species highly sought after for its sporting and game qualities - it wasn't necessarily on my shortlist of bucketlist species I had intended on chasing any time soon. Still, when opportunity presents itself and the resources are there to capitalize, you have to jump!
I met up with my buddy Leland Shealy - whom I went to The Citadel (Military College) with over a decade ago. We hadn't seen eachother since the day I walked out of the gates. He and some family members had went in on a pool to hop aboard the "Kahuna Fishing Charters" out of the Oregon Inlet area of NC. Kahuna has been featured on the wildly popular "Wicked Tuna" Television series.
Being notoriously susceptible to seasickness, this one had me nervous... the Oregon Inlet area is notorious for rough waters, particular in the winter months. As many times as I have gone offshore, ive also gotten sick. I'm just not made for the sea! But, ive also never used any drugs that may cope with the illness. This time, I got a prescription for scopolamine patches and some dramomine.
As luck would have it, we had awful conditions forcasted, with winds in excess of 35-40mph for one of the two days we had to get it done. With the forcast looking grim, I figured we had ONE day to seal the deal on an bluefin,
The captains were quick to let us know that no one had been catching fish... the tuna were way up North, and they probably wouldn't be around but "we will give it a try". Not exactly encouraging prospects for such an 'expensive' fish. Still, many of my greatest catches came on the end of similar circumstances so we embraced the odds as a challenge.
We headed offshore and ran North towards the North Carolina/Virginia border where we started seeing birds, whales, and dolphins. There was life in the water. We trolled jigs behind Tiagra 80W setups - and after about 6 hours of no action, we pulled through an area of moving bait, birds, and dolphins before getting bit.
Leland and I shared time on the rod - tag teaming the fish that really did the species justics and lived up to its reputation. The bluefin tuna is an exceptionally powerful and FAST fish. We managed to land 1 fish, and lose another. Our fish was roughly 180-200 pounds and just over 6 feet long. The fish gave us our money's worth!
As impressive as the fish was, its hard to fathom and really humbling to think it was only a quarter of the size they can get! I cannot imagine an 800lb class specimen... and while they may have not been to high on the priority list before, the experience really left me wondering about trying again for a true giant. Its one of those 'before I die' kindof of experiences... I NEED to phyiscally see and interact with one of the world class giants.
Back at the docks news that one of the boats and actually landed a bluefin seemed to be surprising news. We had gotten lucky. We took the fish to the dock butcher and came away with about 100lb of fresh meat.