With more and more boats fishing off the coast of south-west Wales in recent years for sharks, reported sightings of tuna throughout August and September have become increasingly common. Oftentimes schools of feeding bluefin tuna, including individuals weighing hundreds of pounds, have been sighted feeding amidst vast pods of dolphins, and I suspected it was only a matter of time before one day an angler would actually hook one of these enormous pelagic predators.
It finally happened on Sunday, August 30, aboard Full Monty, a private Arvor 250 that is owned and skippered by Graham Bevan. ‘Bev’, as he is widely known, is a passionate shark angler who has caught many sharks fishing off the coast of Wales. He had sailed from Milford Haven along with crewmen Mike Steer and Clive Jenkins, and set up a drift 20 to 30 miles offshore in the Celtic Deeps This is the area which in recent years has produced truly phenomenal numbers of blue and porbeagle shark, along with the first mako and thresher shark ever recorded from Welsh waters.
Fishing a spread consisting of five rods in 400 feet of water, already they enjoyed a great days fishing with 10 blues boated. Then, around 10 in the morning, the ratchet on the reel fishing the farthest bait from the boat screamed out. “It was Mike’s turn to take the rod, and the fish took several hundreds of yards on its first run,” explained Bev. “Immediately it became apparent he was hooked up to something special, and at first we thought it was a very big porbeagle. Luckily, it was hooked on a strong outfit, consisting of a Shimano Antares 30- to 50-pound-class boat rod matched with a Shimano TLD 50 2-speed, loaded with 70-pound BS line and rigged with a 16/0 Mustad circle hook. Bait was a whole mackerel.”
“The fight lasted lasted around three and a half hours, but it wasn’t until I grabbed the leader that we realized it was a big tuna,” continued Bev. “Toward the end of the fight Mike was pretty much exhausted and later admitted he could not have continued for much longer, but he stuck at it and eventually we managed to boat the fish, unhook it, take a few photographs and successfully release it.”
The fish was estimated to weigh 250 to 300 pounds, and is the first bluefin tuna caught off the coast of Wales. If it did indeed weigh more than 300 pounds, then it is the largest fish ever caught from the Principality. A few days later a second fish estimated at 500 pounds, also hooked on a shark bait, was lost at the side of White Water, another boat fishing off south-west Wales.