In the past few weeks, the bluefin tuna bite, which has been somewhat scarce south of Morehead City in recent years, finally showed up in the Lower Cape Fear region. Anglers Austin Eubank and Clint Richardson caught four tuna that all measured over 73 inches in a week.
But the big story came from Capt. Joe Seegers, Chris Critz, Shane Kellett, and John Hohmann of the Hooked Up, a 40 foot custom fishing vessel out of South Harbor Marina on Jan. 17.
The Hooked Up was about a mile off the beach in the vicinity of the sunken USS Peterhoff, following the telltale signs of diving gannets, bait marks, and slicks made by feeding bluefins. It wasn’t long before they hooked into a good fish that took about two hours to subdue. But things got interesting when the crew attempted to pull the fish aboard through the boat’s tuna door, which Seegers had just recently cut in the transom.
Seegers made the door large enough to fit an 800-pound tuna through, but this one wouldn’t fit. The crew secured the fish so that it was only partially in the boat, with the bulk of it hanging overboard.
The fish was too big to weigh at Tatum’s Fish House in Southport, whose scale only registers a maximum of 500 pounds. So they measured the length of the fish at 106 inches, along with the girth, which measured 86 inches.
Based on the standard formula to determine weight based on those measurements, this tuna weighed approximately 902 pounds. With the head, tail, and intestines removed, the fish weighed 677 pounds.
The crew saw something interesting as they were offloading the giant tuna. The fish had a fresh flounder rig in its mouth, and because this area is a popular spot to target flounder in the late fall and early winter, a flounder angler probably had a recent encounter with a true giant.