Record Virginia Bluefin Tuna Catch Turns Heads

On April 6, the vessel Ate Up landed a state-record tuna. Less than two weeks later, it sank.

Virginia Bluefin

Virginia Bluefin

A 606-pound bluefin tuna, caught by angler Chase Robinson, was certified as the new Virginia State Record by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.

Robinson, of Virginia Beach, hooked and fought the tuna on April 6, 2015, about 80 miles south-southeast of Rudee Inlet. The monster bluefin measured 113-plus inches in total length and 71 inches in girth. His catch beats out the existing state record 573-pounder, landed in June 2007 by Frederick "Bo" Haycox.

On that eventful day in early April, Robinson and the rest of the 6-man crew left the docks before light aboard the Ate Up, captained by Charles J. Dawson Jr. A slow early-morning and afternoon bite changed drastically at the 750-line in 900 feet of water. First, a pair of school-sized yellowfin tuna were hooked, fought and gaffed. Around 3 p.m., a long-rigger pulling a blue-and-white Ilander with horse ballyhoo went off enthusaistically.

Robinson was first to the rod. He strapped to the fighting chair and cranked on the Shimano Tiagra 80 filled with 80-pound Sufix mono. That's when the bluefin skyrocketed from the water, revealing its massive size. After nearly three hours, Robinson hit a wall. Encouraged by the crew, Robinson stayed on the fish another 2-plus hours before the first gaff found flesh at 8:45 that evening.

The bluefin bent three different gaffs, and it had to be roped at the tail and mouth. "We destroyed $400 worth of gaffs," said Dawson. "It took all six of us an hour to get the fish in the boat. The extra-large tuna bag I bought for giant bluefins was too small!" Ate Up arrived back at port at 2 a.m. the next morning. After waiting for the marina to open, ecstatic crew members hooked the fish to a scale at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center to learn its official weight.

From highs to lows, the vessel Ate Up went from exuberance to despair in a matter of weeks. The boat was destroyed on the weekend of April 18 and 19. "A combination of fog and various system issues ended with the boat on the beach just south of Rudee Inlet where it was totaled by the surf," says Dr. Ken Neill, III, Virginia's IGFA Representative. "There were no injuries to the crew, but the boat was broken up and carted away."