The line left the 130-pound-class reel in a steady cadence at first, almost as if it had been dropped into free-spool with the clicker engaged. But in moments, the pace went into bullet-train mode, and this torpedo-shaped locomotive had zero intention of stopping at the next signal. Line left the reel at a rate that was too quick to gauge, or even to comprehend. There was only, What to do next? We were attached to a determined, giant bluefin tuna.
Just a couple of hours earlier in Beaufort, North Carolina, our five-man crew had been breaking ice off the golden-teak covering boards on a 55-foot custom Carolina rig in the pitch black, hoping Poseidon would give us a passable inlet and fishable weather. There had been no guarantee, especially in the middle of January. But the sun had risen. The morning had warmed up, and the inlet had become navigable. Stars had aligned.
Several vertebrae in my lower back also aligned as we moved the rod into the fighting chair. I strapped myself into a bucket harness to battle this supersize thunnus. I cranked till everything went numb, gaining some line. He made a run just to show me what the Dacron on the bottom of the reel’s spool looked like. Sweat dripped off my head as if someone had opened a faucet. I was down to a T-shirt in January.
The battle was epic. Every muscle fiber in my legs and back called out to quit, but the adrenaline rush had taken over. This was my first giant, and if he wasn’t quitting, neither was I. After an hour, the captain called out, “I see color!” I strained to see over the covering boards from my harness, and there he was. It looked as if there were a submarine attached to my line. I stared slack-jawed at this mammoth marvel of the sea.
We brought the big tuna alongside for a quick picture before sending him back to the depths. We caught four more giant tuna of more than 500 pounds each that afternoon. I was fortunate enough to be on the rod for three of them.
It’s been almost 10 years since then, and there have been many more fish, but when I see the sport-fishing yachts in this issue, I think about the time Poseidon looked up through the depths, smiled at our crew and gave us a day few ever have the luck to experience.