By Elliott Stark
In a very direct sense, the pending new Texas state record bluefin tuna was a victim of the coronavirus.
Whether or not fish can actually catch this disease, who the hell knows, but the trip that resulted in greasing the biggest bluefin in the history of the Lone Star State was the result of being cooped up in the house awaiting the virus to run its course. Captain Robert Nichols, who runs the Rock Mama, a 55’ Hatteras based out of Galveston, Texas was gracious enough to tell us all about this fish of a lifetime.
Boat owner, and the man who reeled in the fish, Daniel Miers asked Nichols if he could round up a crew to take advantage of the weather window that presented the opportunity to get offshore and out of the house for a while. On the boat were Miers, his son Jacob, Capt. Robert Nichols and his two brothers Derek and Scotty. “We left out of Freeport Tuesday evening and slowboated about 100 miles to the Nansen Rig,” Nichols says.
“I talked to Capt. Troy Day. He had caught two blue marlin the day before but was heading home. Captain John Cochrane killed a bluefin that went 599 at Nansen too, so we were pretty excited. We planned to live bait for blue marlin.”
After getting a bit of sleep, the crew filled their tuna tubes at 4:30 am in the lights of the rig. “We put the baits out at 6:45. At about 7:00 there was an explosion. It’s hard to describe, but it looked like a 400 or 500-pound cannonball blew up in the water. There was a drill ship out at Nansen and we hooked the fish off of the bow of the drill ship.”
“We backed down a total of seven miles during the fight. When we were about four miles away from the rig, the tuna took a big run. The next thing you know, I looked down off the port side of the boat and there was a school of giant bluefin swimming and jumping around the surface of the water. We were surrounded by big tuna. I think the fish tried to join up with the school even though it was hooked.”
“My boss, Daniel Miers, hooked the fish and fought in the chair the whole time. We fought the fish for about six hours and 40 minutes. It was a pretty incredible feat. I think the whole time he might have had a few bites of kolache (a really great type of breakfast pastry) and three or four bottles of water—and that’s it. He hooked the fish himself.”
“My brothers, Derek and Scotty Nichols (who are also captains themselves) gaffed the fish. We gaffed it the first time we got him on the leader. We caught the fish on an 80 wide with 200-pound leader. The leader was light because we were fishing for blue marlin…”
“Ryan Doxey had to swim over from another boat to help us get the fish in the boat. We used the anchor windlass to help get the fish on board. We couldn’t have done it with just manpower. I removed the anchor and the chain and ran the anchor line around the boat and tied to the fish. As they were pulling, they yell up and I’d put it in gear.”
The fish weighed 820 pounds. It was 114 inches long with a girth of 80 inches.
“We got it on board but it was too big to keep fishing so we headed home even though the fishing was lights out.”
Nichols, Miers and company weighed the fish at Galveston’s Pelican Rest Marina.
Congratulations from InTheBite on the fish of a lifetime. The previous Texas state record bluefin mark was set in the 1980s.
Check out our gallery of more recent tuna catches:
Any comments or questions please feel free to ask us. Thanks in advance from InTheBite staff