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Lady Angler, Giant Yellowfin Tuna

A San Diego angler lands a massive tuna on a long-range trip

March 31, 2020
Anglers holding up a large yellowfin tuna.
Victoria Jones (left) and her massive yellowfin tuna. Courtesy Herman Jones

Early on the morning of December 10, 2019, Victoria Jones, nicknamed “Queen Victoria,” requested a large mackerel from the baitwell aboard the 105-foot Red Rooster III, an established long-range expedition boat operating out of San Diego. As she cast the bait into the darkness, she took note of the quietness that fell over the vessel. In an instant, something grabbed the mackerel. Jones’ catch happened to be the largest yellowfin ever caught aboard Red Rooster III by any angler—male or female. This is her account of the catch that changed her life.

The mackerel had been biting well, but most of the anglers who were fulfilling their bait-catching duties were doing it in a half-conscious state—it was just too early in the morning for the mind to be working effectively.

After we loaded the wells, I found myself trying to control the departure speed of the mackerel I had cast out, which was desperately escaping into the abyss. I thumbed the line and saw the gray light beginning to appear on the horizon. At that moment, I realized how quiet the deck was, with only the hum of the ­generator reminding me I was on a boat.

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I started to notice how active my bait was getting, and suddenly, the line began to take off at a greater speed than a mackerel would normally swim; something had taken my bait and was swimming away at an alarming speed. I pushed the gear lever up to the preset drag position, just one notch before strike, and the line instantly came tight. I thought it might be a shark, but the speed didn’t resemble any shark I’d ever fought.

Safely attached in my harness, I desperately hung on as I watched

250 yards of 130-pound-test Spectra melt away from my reel. As the line slowed down, I settled in for the fight. Deck boss Andrew Cates was standing next to me trying to say something, but I couldn’t hear him; my mind was focused only on this fish, which now had me in the port aft corner. As the fish suddenly changed direction and headed for the starboard side, Cates quickly took my rod and moved it to the other side of the stern.

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Pandemonium ensued. The fish decided to turn and dart all the way to the bow. Cates quickly reacted by carrying my rod and running at full speed. He jumped onto the bow rail and maneuvered the rod to be sure the line hadn’t crossed the anchor line. As I’m running after Cates, I’m thinking to myself: Please don’t let this fish get cut off on the anchor line!

For over a grueling hour, I fought with this fish, which insisted on trying to get in the anchor line. All the while, I’ve got one knee uncomfortably on the deck and the rod tucked under my arm to avoid touching the bow rail. Each time the fish headed near the anchor line, Cates, without fail, would jump up and clear the line.

I managed to gain back most of the line with the fish just 100 yards from the boat when it ran off another 150 yards of line. I gathered my thoughts and concentrated on regaining the lost line, telling myself: Don’t let this fish defeat you. You will land this fish, no matter how long it takes.

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Another hour later, I heard someone yell, “Color!” The fish was doing the circles, slowly coming into gaff range. Time stood still. Everyone was cheering for me as five gaffs sank into my fish and it was lifted up onto the deck. I remember smiling, yelling and crying all at the same time. After chasing yellowfin tuna with my husband, Herman, for the past seven years, my dream of landing a giant had finally come true.

This was the biggest yellowfin I’ve ever seen—a massive 368-pounder— and I can’t thank the crew aboard Red Rooster III enough, especially Cates. I couldn’t have done it without them all.By Victoria Jones, as told to Capt. Jen Copeland

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