Fisherman Lands Largest Bluefin Ever Off Carolina Coast

Jan 21, 2015

Capt. Herb Sheades (left) and Mate Jonathan Anderson (middle) get a full view at their catch when their 1005 lb tuna was lifted out of the water at Homer Smith Seafood, Beaufort, NC on Jan. 13, 2015.
Credit Alex Nitt

Jonathan Anderson and Captain Herb Sheades, landed what is likely the largest bluefin tuna ever caught off the North Carolina coast.  The two commercial fishermen were aboard the Fish Bucket on an early morning run last week.

"Nothing is ever normal, these fish are extremely finicky," says Anderson. "You're lucky if you get one. We've fished for twenty-five days before landing our first keeper. It's not as easy as TV makes it out to be."

The men knew tuna were in the area. They heard another fisherman landed one and soon everybody started tuna fishing, and, "We got lucky, and got a nice one."

That's an understatement. The fish weighs over a thousand pounds. The state record for non-commercial fishermen is 805 pounds. (No records are kept for commercial catches.)

The battle between fisherman and fish

Once he knew he had something on the line, "I ran back there to get on the rod, and any chance I can I crank," says Anderson. It's a mighty effort, cranking. It takes all a man's strength.

"It's a combination of me and the captain. [The captain] will maneuver the boat to help land the fish."

Hour after hour, mile after mile, the bluefin kept fighting.

"I saw the fish one-and-a-half hours in to the fight and I knew it was huge. I turned and told Herb, 'That's a big fish.'"

The seas were rough, northeast winds 20-30 m.p.h.

'No one will ever truly understand what it took to get this fish.'

"That fish was a strong, hard fighter," says Anderson. The fight went on for more than three hours, over ten miles. A dance between the captain and the fish. A test of strength, with Anderson cranking, soaked to the bone.

They finally cranked the fish close enough to the boat to harpoon. The bluefin was too big to bring aboard, so they dragged it backwards to shore.

"We both, myself and Herb the captain, are tickled to death to have caught this fish," Anderson says, adding that it doesn't matter that their achievement won't be noted in the record books because they are commercial fisherman.

"That piece of paper doesn't pay my light bill. [Fishing] is how I make my living, it's how I pay my mortgage. I've always done it since I was little, it's a job I can do, go in each day, and be happy about doing."

The men will not know how much they will get for the fish until it's auctioned off.

"No one will ever truly understand what it took to get this fish. Highlight? Yes, I would have to say I've caught a lot of fish, but this one is the highlight. Yep."

State officials expect the tuna to be offshore until April.