Virginia Bluefin Tuna State Record Broken

atlantic bluefin tuna

A 708-pound bluefin tuna, caught on February 16, 2020 by Jake Hiles, of Virginia Beach, has been certified as the new Virginia State Record by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament’s Director Lewis Gillingham.

Hiles catch surpasses the previous state record bluefin tuna of 606 pounds, caught by his friend Chase Robinson of Virginia Beach. Hiles was a crew member on that trip.

The record-setting catch was made nearly 80 miles SSE of Rudee Inlet, at a location known locally as the “Tuna Hole.”

Captain Hiles, a well-known charter captain and owner of the vessel “Toro” and fishing buddy Jeff Landis, departed from Rudee Inlet around noon beginning a trip that went into the night.

Late in the day, the fishermen located a warm-water eddy and began trolling for tuna, Eventually they hooked up to what may have been a big bluefin. After a long fight the unknown fish was cut off by the propeller. By now it was nearly nightfall, so the trolling tackle was exchanged for drifting rigs.

One rig was baited with dead bluefish and the other sported a proto-type 3-D printed soft plastic cucumber-colored tinker mackerel imitation the pair has been testing nicknamed “Stinky Tinky.”

A 10-foot hammerhead took a bluefish bait and was released. After the lines were reset, Hiles decided to rest while awaiting the next bite. The pair had agreed Hiles would do “all the cranking” before the pair left the dock.

Around 4 AM Landis alerted Hiles to a hookup with the mackerel proto-type lure. As the angler was getting situated in the fighting chair, Landis began retrieving the other line baited with whole bluefish. Before it could be brought in, the line was taken by an estimated 100-pound mako shark, which Landis fought and released.

Using the fighting chair, Captain Hiles worked the bluefin on heavy unlimited tackle, an eight-foot, unlimited class rod built by Anglers Envy that was matched to a two-speed Penn 130vsx spooled with nearly a mile of mono ending with two-hundred yards of hollow core braid as final backing.

During the battle, the massive tuna stripped all the mono and part of the backing before being stopped. The terminal end of the rig consisted of two hundred feet of 250-pound Momoi extra-hard monofilament leader, a Spro 370-pound wind on swivel on one end, and an Eagle Claw 10/0 Trokar hook on the other.

Within an hour, the tuna fought, gaffed, and secured at the tuna door. After the battle, the pair rested while they waited for sunrise and discussed how they might fit the fish through the tuna door. It would take the pair 2 hours and some improvising to squeeze the giant bluefin through the tuna door and on the deck for the ride back to Rudee Inlet.

Once inside Rudee Inlet they headed straight for the Virginia Beach Fishing Center where the tuna was weighed and registered. Hiles record setting bluefin tuna weighed 708 pounds, measured 114-1/2 inches in total length, 109 inches in straight line fork length while sporting an impressive 77-1/4 inch girth.

The state record for Bluefin tuna has been broken several times in recent years. In 2015, a 606 pound bluefin tuna, caught by Chase Robinson, of Virginia Beach, was certified as a Virginia state record. A 573 pound bluefin, caught in June, 2007 off Virginia Beach by Frederick “Bo” Haycox held the previous Virginia state record for bluefin tuna.

source: Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament