In 2014 during the National tournament Donna and the crew on Gladiator caught a 411.6kg Pacific Bluefin Tuna, here is Donna’s Story.
We were fishing in the National Tournament and had travelled to the Three Kings on Gladiator. There were about 20 boats fishing at the Kings while we were there in the first few days of the tournament but due to the weather not being very good and winds up to 35 knots, all but 3 other boats had headed back to North Cape to continue fishing.
On 19 February we had arrived on the King Bank after spending the night sheltering against the cliffs of the islands and we were trolling around for marlin to tag. The weather was a bit misty and the wind was quite strong. At 9.10am one of the rods started screaming so I shot out into the cockpit, grabbed the rod out of the holder and jumped in the chair, or rather staggered into the chair as it was pretty rough. The line was peeling out like it was attached to a freight train. As usual I was pretty nervous that I might get spooled as the line was 60kg on an 80W reel so there wasn’t a lot of line on it. Thankfully the fish stopped running and I was able to get a bit of line back in. From then on it was a game of the fish taking line and me getting it back.
The wind had got up to gusts of 36 knots while I was playing the fish and I was getting drenched from the waves coming over the back of the boat. The waves were so big at times even Scott, the skipper up on the flybridge got wet.
Scott kept telling me it was a stubborn fish but I informed him that I was also extremely stubborn and I was going to win this one. About 3 hours into the fight and still wondering what was on the line, I finally got it to the surface and at the boat when Scott yelled out from the flybridge, ‘tuna, world record’. Paddy grabbed the leader and Ken got the tag pole. We had originally planned to just tag all our fish. The tag went in and Scott realising the size called out to gaff the fish. The fish obviously heard this and disagreed with the decision. It decided I hadn’t had enough of a workout and was making another run. Paddy let go of the leader and I settled down again for more of a battle.
Finally after over an hour more I had the fish at the boat again and this time thankfully all went well as I was pretty spent after over 4 hours of trying to fight the fish and the elements. Scott said it all in his comment when the fish was at the back of the boat “I’m amazed you lifted that girl, absolutely gobsmacked”
Trying to boat the fish was interesting. The four men of the crew all had hold of the tail and the rope around the tail and could not bring the fish onboard. Finally after a lot of discussion it was decided to run a rope along the side of the boat and up to the anchor winch. The winch is rated for 1500kg but even so it really struggled with only moving an inch at a time. Finally after a little under 40 minutes with the help of the anchor and the crew pulling, the tuna slid onboard amid lot’s of yelling and screams of delight.
After over 4 hours of being on this fish and at my age (56yrs) I naively thought my day was done but Scott had other ideas and said we were going to continue fishing for another 8 hours and would then make our way back through the night to take the fish to shore to weigh. And I thought my husband was a hard taskmaster.
The 10 hour trip through the night back to the weigh station was rough. No one was able to get any sleep while trying to stop being thrown out of the bunk.
Arriving back to shore at the Houhora weigh station at 6am we were thrilled to see a big contingent from the Houhora Big Game & Sportsfishing Club who had all come down to the weigh station so early in the morning to see us come in. Coming from Auckland, it made us feel proud to be members of such a tightknit club who support all their members.
My tuna was lifted from the back of the boat and and attached to the scales. The tail was then lifted off the ground. The scales read 250kg with just the tail lifted so I was hoping it would make it to 300kg. The rest of the fish was lifted up and when it was off the ground we all looked closely at the scales. 411.6kg. Our eyes popped out of our heads and it is still trying to sink in that I beat the 2013 women’s world 60kg record by 188 kg as well as the all tackle 2013 record by 76kg. It was also confirmed as the biggest fish on record ever caught by a lady angler in NZ. Certainly my ‘fish of a lifetime’.
This tuna is the heaviest fish ever caught by a lady in New Zealand and received two world records, the women’s 60kg lineweight and the All Tackle world record. Donna was also awarded the Best World Record for 2014 at the International Game Fishing Association at the awards evening in Florida, USA in April 2015.