June 22 was a banner day for Capt. Nick Campos aboard his 39-foot Contender, the C-Daddy, fishing the northern Gulf of Mexico out of Venice, Louisiana. The trip would start with snapper, and wrapped with a hefty tuna.
“It’s was a good group of anglers who are experienced in what we do here,” said Campos. He was fishing with a bunch of New Orleans-based anglers who regularly book his boat through VooDoo Charters, and are wise in the ways of fishing the area.
“We caught a bunch of hardtail live baits right away using Sabiki rigs. Then we caught a few red snapper,” Campos added. “After, we ran offshore to a spot where we’ve been getting some really good tuna action.”
Drifting for Tuna
Campos ran his sleek Contender, powered by triple 350hp Yamahas, 60 miles offshore. The plan was to drift live baits around a drillship called the Deepwater Pontus, in 4,500 feet of water.
“We were just drifting at about 10 a.m. with a few baits out, occasionally tossing out six live baits at a time to turn on the tuna,” said Campos. “We’d already caught some. Then we hooked a tuna double-header, fish about 80 pounds.”
Pitch Bait for the Win
Anglers grabbed the rods and battled the pair of tuna. Campos then pitched out another bait just 10 feet from the boat and watched a monster yellowfin rise up and swallow the hardtail bait.
Campos turned to Capt. Lee McClean, who was mating for him that day, and said, “I just had a 7-foot-long tuna take a bait.”
McClean looked at Campos and said, “No way!”
Then, they both watched the line on the reel start smoking as the fish dove.
Fighting Multiple Tuna
The Shimano reel was loaded with 600 yards of 80-pound test braided line, plus a top-shot of 150-feet of 50-pound test fluorocarbon line, and was tied to a rugged 5/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Much of this line quickly disappeared.
Jared Austin of New Orleans got on the big tuna, and the battle began. As Austin fought the huge yellowfin, the brace of smaller 80-pounders were boated. Then, the anglers concentrated on the big fish that powered deep and fast.
“It dove straight down, and almost emptied the reel of all its line,” says Campos. “I could see the gold core of the reel spool through about 15 wraps of line left on the reel.”
Campos put full drag pressure on the big tuna to stop its run, knowing the comparatively light 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader might part. But stopping the fish was the only way to prevent it from taking all the line and losing it anyway.
Team Effort, and a Little Luck
Austin fought the tuna for a time, then became exhausted and passed the rod to another angler on board. That fisherman also got whipped by the massive fish. Finally, Campos got on the rod in a fighting harness, and in time he drew the fish close to the boat after a 90-minute tuna brawl.
Two gaffs in the fish were needed to haul it aboard.
“We got the fish in the boat, and the hook just fell out of the tuna’s mouth,” says Campos. “It was broken just behind the barb. The circle part of the hook was still in its mouth, and only the heavy, steady pressure put on the fish kept it from coming off the hook without a barb.
“We’ve had hooks straighten on big tuna. But I’ve never seen a rugged hook like a Gamakatsu circle break. That was one tough tuna.”
With six tuna in the boat and about a dozen snapper, the anglers were exhausted and ready to head back to Cypress Cove Marina. There, the yellowfin was officially weighed on certified scales at 238.2 pounds.
“When the dockmaster announced the fish’s weight I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t think it was bigger than a 218-pounder we’d caught on another trip,” said Campos. “We had a 187-pounder the previous week, and I didn’t think the 238 was any bigger. I was in shock about the heavy weight.”
The tuna is one of the biggest caught in Louisiana in recent years, but because several anglers fought the yellowfin it’s record catch status is gone.
Nevertheless, the excellent big tuna fishing found out of Venice continues to amaze even the captains and other anglers who regularly fish the region.
Editor’s Note: Got an interesting catch? We’d love to hear about it! Drop us a line with all the details at [email protected].