Chandra Gavin operates Giant Bluefin Tuna Charters in Ballantyne’s Cove, Nova Scotia with her husband Capt. John Gavin. The Canadian province is arguably the world’s top destination for giant bluefin tuna, and this is her story of a world-record-setting day on the water. Her catch from September, 2016, was recently approved by the IGFA as a new ladies world record.
In 2014, we took our 12-year-old daughter Jenna out to fish with us, and she broke the IGFA junior female bluefin world record. The thrill of the record never really left us, and so in September, 2016, when our good friend Bertrand Bouchard urged me to go for the women’s IGFA 30-pound-test record, the idea took hold of me like a fever and just wouldn’t let go. With some gear that Bert loaned us, we were set to record fish once again.
Our charter schedule was tight but we did have a few windows of opportunity. Our game plan was to use a heavy leader and try to get the fish boat-side quickly to avoid a long fight. I’ve never fought a fish on stand-up tackle before, so I had no idea how long I could last if I hooked one of the real giants that call our waters home.
We spent four days waiting for conditions that were just right: not too much wind, not too many whales, and a good body of tuna. On the fourth day everything was right for us to make a solid attempt. We headed out to a popular spot called Fishermen’s Bank, which is located at the eastern end of the Northumberland Strait, just northwest of the province of Nova Scotia. We set up a kite bait but the first bite came suddenly and caught us off-guard. I wasn’t completely strapped into my stand-up harness and the fish made a long first run. I only fought the tuna for about five minutes before we lost it in one of the many herring nets that are scattered throughout the fishing grounds.
We were marking a lot of fish when we set back up, so I was ready when we had the next kite bite. That fish took us about five miles off our original mark as I fought him using about eighteen pounds of drag. I was nervous that the reel’s drag combined with the drag from the line cutting through the water would break the fish off. I finally got the fish boat-side and our mate Craig Wallace wired the big tuna in tight, but as John attempted to sink the gaff, the fish made a quick head shake and popped the hook free. We were totally speechless as the tuna swam away. It was a beauty we estimated at about six hundred pounds.
After the initial shock, we regrouped to determine our next move. Our charter work was starting the next day, so this was the last chance to take a crack at the record, and it was now early evening. After a brief discussion, we all agreed to give it one last shot.
We got bit almost immediately and this time I was much more comfortable managing the drag on my Shimano reel. They say the third time is the charm and that was the case with this fish. A short one-hour battle had the fish beside the boat and locked down. We headed back to Ballantyne’s Cove, celebrating our success.
I had one final moment of worry as we lifted the fish out of the water because it looked small, but I only had to beat a previous record of 350 pounds. We were relieved to see the official weight of 406 pounds. We had done it! What a fantastic feeling, to land a world-record bluefin tuna in our home waters.