On the morning of March 2, Corey Schaible of Nags Head, NC boarded the Sea Wolf to mate for Capt. Donnie White of Sea Wolf Sportfishing on the last day of the bluefin tuna season. A few hours later and 40 miles outside of Oregon Inlet, Schaible hooked up to the largest bluefin of his life — an 835 pounder.
White (252-489-9911), a charter guide for various pelagic species from Oregon Inlet in the off-season, arrived at the dock that morning in need of another mate. Schaible had just returned from fishing on another boat but was happy to oblige when he got the word. He hopped from aboard White’s 53’ Carolina Sportfisher and they burned a trail back to the fishing grounds with Tracy Abbott and Elliot Ambrose aboard. Despite little activity to start, they heard reports of fish in the area, and they trolled a 3-rod spread of Sea Witches and naked ballyhoo.
“We got our bite right in the propwash of another boat,” said Schaible. “The drag was screaming, and smoke was coming off the spool. The first run was a big one.”
Schaible began to apply steady pressure on the reel as soon as the fish slowed. Although its initial sprint had gotten everyone’s adrenaline pumping, the ease with which it returned to the boat had them second-guessing. Slowly but steadily, the swivel that joined the 220-pound monofilament top shot to the 180-pound fluorocarbon leader was pulled onto the rod. Just then, the fish realized the jig was up and bolted out another run before the crew had a visual.
“We did the same thing again,” said Schaible, “and started bringing him back real easy. He let us get him back into swivel range and then took off on another run. We eased him back again, but he found a halfway point that he didn't want to come past. He just got into a circle about 200 feet from the boat. But, we turned his head and got him coming.
“He let us get him right where the swivel was in the rod tip. It must have gone in and out of the rod tip 35 times. That’s when you're really cringing because that’s your connection and every time it goes through a guide it's getting beat up.”
At last, Schaible put the swivel on the spool in addition to a few wraps of leader as the fish made a wide pass out of harpoon range. That's when they saw it for the first time and all doubt was removed as to its validity as a serious fish. Patiently, Abbott waited for it to close in before placing a precision dart shot behind the pectoral fin. As Schaible stayed on the rod, Abbott pulled the fish close enough for the crew to put a gaff in its head and tail, concluding an hour-long fight.
The tuna measured 116 inches long with an 81 ½ inch girth, and dressed out at 665 pounds.