Maine Teens Land Giant Bluefin Tuna

Portland gives up a massive fish

Two large bluefin tuna underwater near a bait ball swarm of fish.
A giant tuna on the prowl.Marko Steffensen/Alamy

One late-summer morning, three friends—Martin Scanlan, Wyatt Morse, and amateur filmmaker and first-time tuna fisherman, Griffin Buckwalter—loaded up and departed Cundy’s Harbor in Harpswell, Maine, at 6:00 a.m. By 7:30, they were surrounded by whales and marking plenty of bait in 200 feet of ­water. They quickly jigged up some Atlantic herring and dropped anchor some 12 miles off the Portland coast. The gear was set out: one bait ballooned on the surface and the other approximately 90 feet down. The teens were marking a few fish and settled in as Buckwalter tried his hand at some haddock fishing. After an hour or so, the band on the down rod snapped, and the rod holder was almost ripped from the gunwale. They were on. It was 10 a.m.

For most of the fight, the giant ­bluefin was cooperating on the surface, but that would not last for long. Scanlan and Morse took turns battling the fish while Buckwalter filmed the fight and waited for the perfect time to throw the dart. Six hours later, color appeared in the depths as the fish began its long-awaited death spiral—pinwheeling as the boys slowly worked it toward Morse’s 24-foot custom lobster boat, aptly called Fat 2una.

Another hour passed, and the bluefin was finally in harpoon range as Buckwalter expertly placed the dart in the fish. After the tail rope was secured at 5:00 p.m., the behemoth, which was too heavy to lift into the boat, was secured to the side, and the teens began the slow chug home. They met up with Scanlan’s father, Patrick, who was now underway to meet the boys in his own 45-foot Young Brothers, Whiskey Business.

With the help of his father, Scanlan, Buckwalter and Morse transferred the bluefin from boatside of Fat 2una onto Whiskey Business, then to an iced fish bag; both boats steamed back toward Portland. At 7:30 p.m., the bluefin had safely arrived and was lifted into the back of the Scanlan’s truck and ­promptly transported to Free Range Fish & Lobster, where the 110-inch, estimated 700-pound bluefin tuna dressed-weighed at 520 pounds—a monster fish indeed.

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