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Friday, May 27, 2011

New Pacific Bluefin Tuna Record

A sinew-stretching encounter with a powerful giant tuna 60 kilometres off the West Coast has got Stoke man Brent Connor into the record books and made him a fisherman of international stature.
Mr Connor, a 42-year-old road marking contractor, now officially holds the world record for a Pacific bluefin tuna caught on 60-kilogram (130-pound) line.
He has a certificate from the International Game Fish Association to prove it, his 281kg (619lb 7oz) catch has gone to the association's Florida museum and he's pictured in the latest issue of International Angler magazine.
It all happened on September 10 last year while Mr Connor and five of his mates were on a two-day trip out of Greymouth aboard Tony Roach's 15.4 metre charter boat Cova Rose.
They all caught bluefin tuna, but it was Mr Connor's that stood out as a possible world-beater. So Mr Roach – an experienced hand with a strong reputation in the bluefin-chasing scene – made sure that all the requirements for a record entry were complied with.
Line testing and other stringent checks take time, and it was only a few weeks ago that the certificate arrived, followed by the magazine at the weekend.
Mr Connor, who was on his first tuna trip, said he and the same group were going back this year. The catch was extra-special because it occurred on the anniversary of the death of his brother Warren, whose life was claimed by a heart attack four years previously, when he was just 39.
"I think he probably gave me a hand to get the fish up."
The tuna took a hoki bait and was landed in 55 minutes, using a game chair and harness. It took all of the six fishermen and three crew to lift it aboard.
Mr Connor said the experience was "just amazing".
"It's like hauling in a bus."
He was exhausted but "still buzzing" the next day, he said, and hopes to one day travel to Florida to see the fish again. It was flown there at the association's expense because it had been seeking a Pacific bluefin specimen for its museum.
Nelson-based Mr Roach, who will begin his sixth season of tuna-fishing charters in August, said the fishery was attracting international clients. Half a dozen charter boats are used, with a number of other fishermen using their own boats, heading out from Greymouth and Westport to fish the Hokitika Trench.
"It's been awesome – it's one of the few game fisheries where your chance of a capture is really high," Mr Roach said. "They're real aggressive compared to swordfish or marlin, and fish deep. Some of the fights are five or six hours."
Last season one client caught an even bigger tuna – 334.5kg – but used his own fishing gear, which didn't comply with the tough requirements for a world record entry. Even so, Mr Roach believes it was the biggest Pacific bluefin ever landed anywhere.
Conservationists often express concern about bluefin tuna but Mr Roach said that most of the fish taken in the West Coast season, which only lasts about six weeks after the fish arrive to feed on hoki each year, are tagged and released after being measured alongside the charter boats.

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