Earlier this week I wrote a story about how a New Zealand angler caught a massive, 907.4-pound Pacific bluefin tuna to challenge the current world record. I managed to catch up with Donna Pascoe—the angler in question—and she sent me over the whole story.
“The tuna has been confirmed by the New Zealand Sportsfishing Council as being the biggest fish on record ever caught by a lady angler in New Zealand, it is the pending world 130-lb tackle women’s record, and the pending world all-tackle record, which includes men and women,” Donna wrote me in an email. “The IGFA [International Game Fish Association] take a few months to ratify the catch as they have to go through all the paperwork and test the line that is sent to them.”
She said that during the 10-hour trip back to the weigh station, no one was able to get any sleep.
“I spent the night reliving the day,” she continued.
On February 19, Donna was on board the 55-foot charter boat Gladiator near Three Kings Islands, about 34 miles north of New Zealand. With her were Captain Scott Sutherland, Ken Pascoe, Nathan Carr-Clarke, and Patrick Bohane. The crew was competing against 20 other boats in the New Zealand National Tournament, and they were determined to win.
“Gamefishing is certainly not a sport in which you look pretty sitting in the chair,” Donna wrote. “The bruises came out the next day […] from sliding from side to side in the chair.”
Gladiator spent the previous night sheltering against the cliffs of the Three Kings and the crew began the day trolling for marlin to tag. The smell of scrambled eggs came from the ship’s gallery and Donna was sitting inside the saloon wearing a black trashbag—her options for available dry clothing were quickly running out, due to the playfulness of Captain Sutherland over the past several days. Donna was anticipating breakfast, but it would be over four hours until she finally had the chance to plate some eggs.
“At 9:10 a.m. one of the rods started screaming so I shot out into the cockpit, grabbed the rod out of the holder, and jumped in the chair, or rather staggered into the chair as it was pretty rough. The line was peeling out like it was attached to a freight train,” she wrote. “As usual I was pretty nervous that I might get spooled. Thankfully the fish stopped running and I was able to get a bit of line back in. From then on it was a game of the fish taking line and me getting it back.”
At first Donna said that she had hoped for a black marlin, but it later grew apparent that it was something else. The fight continued on through rough wind and waves. The day was misty, and even with the trashbag on, Donna quickly became drenched. The waves were so large that even the captain on the flybridge had trouble staying dry, but such is the lot of saltwater fishermen.
“Scott, the skipper, kept telling me it was a stubborn fish but I informed him that I was also extremely stubborn and I was going to win this one,” Donna wrote. “After two hours of battling it had certainly turned into a game of who was the strongest-willed.”
The fish surfaced for the first time three hours into the fight, and it was only then that the crew got an impression of its size. Captain Sutherland immediately recognized it as a possible world record.
“We had planned to just tag all our fish as we were wanting to try for the most tagged marlin in the tournament. The tag went in and Scott—realizing the size—called out to gaff the fish. The fish obviously heard this and disagreed with the decision. It decided I hadn’t had enough of a workout and was making another run.”
It took another hour before Donna emerged victorious, clocking the fight in at four hours and 11 minutes. It took another 40 minutes for the crew to bring the massive bluefin on board using a winch. After a bit of celebrating, the crew finally settled down to a much delayed breakfast.
“We finally got to eat our scrambled eggs, a little bit overdone but they were the best tasting eggs I have ever had,” Donna wrote.
The angler couldn’t wait to get to the weigh station, and news of the tuna preceded her. The Gladiator showed up to a crowd from the Houhora Big Game and Sport Fishing Club and weighmaster Wayne Carey. All eyes were on the tuna when it was presented to the scale. It came in at 411.6 kilograms, or 907.42 pounds. If certified by the International Game Fish Association, Donna’s tuna would weigh more than 167 pounds heavier than the current world record for bluefin tuna.
“Our eyes popped out of our heads, never imagining at all that it would ever weigh that much,” Donna stated. “Usually quite a reserved person, I jumped around doing a happy dance.”
Not surprisingly, Donna came in first for the tournament’s tuna section. Her total haul over the course of the four-day tournament was three tagged striped marlin, eight tagged sharks, and one possible world record bluefin tuna. For Donna, it was certainly worth a change of clothes.
The current world record all-tackle Pacific bluefin held by IGFA belongs to Nathan Adams. Also from New Zealand, Adams reeled in a 739-pound, six-ounce tuna in 2012 near Otago.
Images courtesy Donna Pascoe