Twelve-year-old Angler Lands Junior World Record Bluefin Tuna


Few parents were as proud as John and Chandra Gavin when their daughter caught a 618-pound beast of a bluefin tuna earlier this month. Although 12-year-old Jenna Gavin grew up around fishing—her parents own Giant Bluefin Tuna Charters in Nova Scotia—she had never landed a fish that big before.

“I was so amazed at how big it looked and that a twelve year old girl could reel in that big a fish!” Jenna wrote to OutdoorHub in an email.

It was big enough to challenge the current junior female world record, which belongs to a 431-pound tuna caught by Andrea George in Sausset, France in 2002. To Jenna’s parents, however, that catch was small-fry.

“Our fish here average 700 to 800 pounds,” Chandra Gavin stated. “If we had a junior angler that we felt was capable of the strength and stamina needed to complete the fight by the standards set by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), then we knew we could almost guarantee breaking the record because of the size of the fish here.”

Jenna’s parents were confident that this year she was skilled enough and physically capable of conquering a record ripe for the taking. Although the 12-year-old may not have a lot of experience fighting fish this size, she did have the excellent coaching of her parents, who between them share decades of angling know-how. The catch itself was made in the waters of the Northumberland Strait on October 7. Drawn in by live bait at a very shallow depth, Jenna Gavin braced herself in the fighting chair for a fish that was to be her biggest catch yet.

The two-hour fight with the large fish was a battle of stamina rather than power. Without any physical assistance from her parents or the crew, Jenna’s top priority was to save her strength for the duration of the fight. At one point, the 130-pound test line even took a smack from a passing whale. When it was over, Jenna said she was overjoyed about her accomplishment.

“It was so amazing, like, I was looking at the fish going ‘wow, I can’t believe I caught that!'” Jenna wrote.

Jenna Gavin shakes hands with all-tackle record holder Ken Fraser.
Jenna Gavin shakes hands with all-tackle record holder Ken Fraser. Image courtesy Russell Kleppinger.

Her first bluefin was measured at 103 inches long and 73 inches in girth. The catch was large enough to draw a crowd of onlookers when the Gavins got back to dock. Among them was famed angler and local legend Ken Fraser, current all-tackle record holder for bluefin tuna. Fraser has held the record since 1979, when he caught an astounding 1,496-pound tuna in Auld’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

“Ken Fraser comes to Ballantyne’s to charter boats to catch and release giant bluefin so he is known in our community,” Chandra wrote. “He just happened to be here chartering another boat when we went for this record. When we got back to the dock he was already in for the day and was in the crowd of onlookers. My husband Capt. John has fished with him before and we asked if he would pose for a few shots with Jenna.”

Fraser was more than happy to do so, and even offered a few words of encouragement for the young angler. After all, what could be a better endorsement for a tuna charter than a standing world record? John and Chandra Gavin pride themselves on running a full-service fishing experience, and fish are generally released. This catch, however, was processed and sent off to market where the proceeds will help pay for Jenna’s braces.

An application has also been filed with IGFA, which will make a ruling on the catch within the next several months. Jenna said that it is not the last time time she will be hunting for bluefin, or her last attempt for a world record.

“I plan to beat it again someday,” she told her mother. “Maybe even next year.”

Who knows? Maybe one day Jenna will even win the all-tackle record herself.

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