1,116 Pounds of Tuna : Bluefin Is Just What the Doctor Ordered, and a Pending World Record, Too

Times Staff Writer

Pomona physician Dr. Jack Steffey had traveled five times to Prince Edward Island, Canada, trying to fulfill his dream of catching a thousand-pound bluefin tuna.

On Sept. 26, about 12 miles off the sportfishing community of North Lake, he hit the jackpot, a 1,116-pound bluefin, a pending world-record catch for 80-pound test line. The fish was more than 10 feet long and its girth measured 92 inches.

“It was some fish. I was really stiff and sore the next morning,” said Steffey, describing the 2 1/2-hour battle. “I’d caught 950- and 800-pound bluefins there before, but never a grander. This time, I got two, and a record to boot.”


Later during his 16 days of fishing in Canada’s famed big bluefin waters, Steffey caught a 1,230-pounder on 130-pound test line, while aboard a 41-foot sportfishing boat, the “Stephen K.” The all-tackle bluefin world record is 1,496 pounds.

Steffey said he caught his possible world-record tuna, the 1,116-pounder, on his first day of fishing, using a dead mackerel for bait.

“It was a day when the weather was so rough in the morning, we didn’t go out,” he said. “We went out in mid-afternoon and we hooked up the fish at 4:45 p.m.

“We were using one of two trolling techniques they use up there for big bluefins. We trolled a dead mackerel with two big egg-shaped sinkers under its chin, to make it look like it’s swimming. The other way is to troll a chain of six dead mackerel, with the last one having a 13.0 stainless steel hook sewn in it.

“My leader was two 174-pound-test braided wire lines, backed up by 26 feet of double 80-pound-test monofilament, then 1,200 yards of 80-pound line.

“I fought the fish the whole time strapped into a fighting chair, in a bucket harness, using my legs and thighs to put pressure on it.


“The strike was kind of soft. I really wasn’t sure we had it on. I reeled in real fast at the start, pulled on the rod and couldn’t feel it because it was swimming toward the boat. Then he suddenly took out 400 yards of line very fast, and that was the only long run it made.

“The key to the whole operation was the skipper, Capt. Cor Keus. He handled the boat beautifully. When we got the fish back to North Lake, it weighed 1,130 pounds, but we deducted the weight of the tackle.

“Prince Edward Island is a great place to fish. Keus tells me he’s seen tuna he’s estimated at 1,600 pounds and I believe him. He was certain my fish was not only over 1,000 pounds but also over the 80-pound record (1,055 pounds) as soon as we had it to the boat, and he was right.”

Keus and other North Lake skippers charge sportfishermen by the line class. To fish all day with 130-pound test, for example, Keus charges $180. With 80-pound: $300. With 50-pound: $350 per day. Why the difference?

“The skipper owns the fish you catch,” Steffey explained. “He gets about $4 per pound from Japanese fish buyers, so since there’s a much greater risk of losing a big fish on light line, he charges more. My fish had its head and tail knocked off, was put on ice and flown immediately to JFK Airport in New York. Then it was flown to Japan, where it wound up in the Tokyo Fish Market, as sashimi.”