The crew of the Dolphin Express was able to land a massive 678-pound bluefin off the South Texas coast last week. But it took them two hours to do it, and the big tuna broke the rod in half during the battle.
Capt. Tim Oestrich and co-captain Matt Murchison of Dolphin Docks Deep Sea Fishing were running the 56-hour charter with 14 fishermen aboard. With the help of three deckhands, they left the dock at Port Aransas on March 22 and ran more than 100 miles offshore into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The crew had a banner day, catching a limit of yellowfin tuna and 11 wahoo in addition to the nearly 700-pound bluefin. Although it was short of the Texas state-record bluefin, which weighed 876 pounds, it’s still one of the bigger tunas caught in the Gulf so far this year.
Crystal Oestrich, who also works for Dolphin Docks, told reporters they were trolling for marlin when the massive tuna hammered the lure.
Multiple anglers took turns on the rod during the roughly two-hour fight with the bluefin. After the fish snapped the rod in two, it was hand-lined to the side of the boat, where it was gaffed and hauled aboard by the deckhands. After returning to the the dock on Friday, they filleted the tuna and divided the meat evenly among the 14 customers.
“The regulations for catching bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico [are] strict, with only one per boat,” Crystal explained. “It’s not common to catch one.”
Western Atlantic Bluefin tuna are a highly migratory species, according to NOAA Fisheries. As a result, they aren’t caught as regularly as the yellowfins and blackfins that live in the Gulf of Mexico year-round.
January through June are typically the better months for targeting Western Atlantic Bluefin in the Gulf, which is home to the species’ pimary spawning grounds. They typically return to these same areas in the Gulf each year to spawn from mid-April through June. The other major hotspot for bluefin fishing, according to NOAA, is off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.