MONSTER bluefin tuna caught out of Oregon Inlet

bluefin
Josiah and Ezekiel VanFleet pose with the 114.5-inch giant bluefin they caught out of Oregon Inlet on Feb. 24, 2021.

Giant bluefin may have been larger than current N.C. state record

While fishing 45 miles offshore of Oregon Inlet, N.C., Josiah VanFleet of Toano, Va. and his crew caught a 114.5-inch giant bluefin tuna. The fish has been estimated to weigh between 800 and 1000 pounds. VanFleet was joined by his 9-year-old son Ezekiel VanFleet, Steve Hux, Steven Griggs and Frank Amato.

VanFleet and crew caught the giant bluefin on Feb. 24, 2021 from his Grady White 225G dual console outfitted with a single Yamaha 250HP outboard. They were using a Penn International 80SW reel and hooked the sea monster using A Joe Shute lure with a ballyhoo.

Unfortunately, they were not able to get an accurate weight on the fish. The scales at Oregon Inlet were broken. This fish may well have been bigger than the current N.C. state record of 877 pounds. The U.S. Coast Guard measured VanFleet’s tuna, and based on the length and girth measurements, estimated the fish was likely right around 1000 pounds.

During the fight, they experienced an equipment malfunction. This forced them to crimp the line onto a different reel, which VanFleet said was an intense moment for him.

“We had to crimp the line that the fish was on to another reel because of a malfunction. (It was) one of the most nerve-racking experiences I have ever felt,” said VanFleet.

Long battle to land the fish, and to get it aboard the boat

The crew fought the fish for about 2 1/2 hours. Hux, of Newport News, Va., was happy to help VanFleet and his son on such a great experience.

“We trolled for an hour or so and hooked a sea monster. Two and a half hours later, we had a 114.5-inch tuna roped off. (It took) another two hours and some help from Tom Phillips and his crew coming over to help get it in,” he said.

Phillips was in a nearby boat, and raced over to help VanFleet’s crew hoist the big fish onto the Grady White.

Even if the scales had been in working order, multiple anglers fought the giant bluefin, which would have made it ineligible as a state record. Crimping the line to another reel may have also rendered it ineligible. But that wasn’t a big deal to this crew. They all took part in every way of catching this once-in-a-lifetime fish. And not knowing the exact weight didn’t spoil the experience for any of these anglers.

“Whatever the weight, it’s a fish of a lifetime. These memories will never be forgotten. I’m so glad to help Josiah and his son achieve their dream, and so happy to share these moments with my dad and being able to do something not many can say they’ve done,” said Hux.

VanFleet agreed.

“We now have an experience we will never forget,” he said.

So what do anglers without a commercial fishing license do with a fish that big? These anglers harvested as much meat as possible from it and passed plenty of it out to neighbors and friends. That’s a great way to share such a great experience with others.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1838 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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