A father and son from Virginia are credited with unofficially besting North Carolina’s bluefin tuna record, with a “monster” catch estimated at 1,000 pounds.
Josiah VanFleet and his son, Zeke, were 45 miles off the Outer Banks on Feb. 24 when they hooked the fish at about 8:15 a.m., according to a video posted on YouTube.
The fish was so powerful that it took the crew 2.5 hours to reel it in, then another 2 hours to get it in the boat, the video notes. “Not bad for our first Bluefin,” VanFleet wrote.
North Carolina’s current state record is 877 pounds for a bluefin caught in 2017 in Oregon Inlet, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.
That record still stands, in part because the weight of VanFleet’s fish had to be estimated, due to the official scales being broken at the fishing center, Southeastern Marine reported on Facebook. Two members of the U.S. Coast Guard estimated the size at 1,000 pounds, the video shows.
VanFleet says the battle included at least one minor crisis: A crimp in the line forced his boat’s crew to switch reels while fighting the fish.
“I think we are still in shock about this whole story. I honestly think it was just a divine moment at just the right time,” VanFleet wrote in a Facebook post. “For those of you who are worried about us, we do have plans of getting a bigger boat.”
Photos show the tuna was twice the height of Zeke, who is 9 years old and has been fishing since he was 3, according to the video. The family lives in Toano, 40 miles southeast of Richmond, where Josiah VanFleet runs his own custom tile company.
Carolina Sportsman notes “even if the scales had been in working order, multiple anglers (on VanFleet’s boat) fought the giant bluefin, which would have made it ineligible as a state record.”
VanFleet told Carolina Sportsman the crew “harvested as much meat as possible from it and passed plenty of it out to neighbors and friends.”
Western Atlantic bluefin can reach “13 feet and 2,000 pounds” and live up to 20 years, according to NOAA Fisheries.
Waters off the Outer Banks are considered a prime fishing spot for bluefin, because the Gulf Stream brings them closer to shore than in many other East Coast states, according to BlueFin Sportfishing.
“The Atlantic Gulf Stream meanders as close as only ten miles outside Hatteras Inlet. Because of this natural phenomenon our local Cape Hatteras deep sea charter boats can offer you the shortest boat rides this side of Miami,” the site says.