Capt. Eric Newman was on a fun trip with friends Tuesday in search of yellowfin tuna out of Venice — and for a few minutes around 1 p.m., everyone onboard thought they were hooked up with a good one.

“At first, the fish took some really nice runs — kind of ‘tuna-esque’ runs,” said Newman, who owns Journey South Outfitters with his wife, Moe. “Real long and real fast.”

But once the battle wore on with angler Chris Legrand of Slidell on the rod, Newman started having his doubts as to what had inhaled the drifting chunk of bonita out on the East Lump in 230 feet of water, about 30 miles from South Pass.

“When it settled in, I didn’t think it was a tuna anymore. When you get up and down on big yellowfin, you can see their tail beat in the rod tip,” Newman explained. “Your rod tip will always bounce from the yellowfin doing those massive tail beats to keep trying to swim.

“So when you don’t see that tail beat, you’re thinking shark or maybe an amberjack — anything but tuna.”

As the battle waged, everyone else stopped fishing and the boat was positioned to keep Legrand squared up on the fish. He was using a Shimano Tiagra 30 reel, a Shimano Terez bent-butt rod and an Eagle Claw 7/0 circle hook with a 50-pound Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon leader. 

When a big amberjack finally showed itself after the 30-minute tug-of-war, Newman said it was an emotional rollercoaster.

“We went from being bummed out that it wasn’t a tuna to excited when we finally saw it on the surface,” he said. “When it came up and I saw the head on this thing and it’s mouth open, I said, ‘Dude, that’s the biggest amberjack I’ve ever seen in my life ….

“But I was thinking maybe 105 or 110, maybe a Top 5 fish. I’ll be honest with you — I didn’t think it was 140 pounds.”

But that’s exactly what the certified scale at Cypress Cove Marina read, and Legrand’s big AJ will become the state’s new No. 1 amberjack if the catch is certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association

The current No. 1-ranked fish weighed 139 pounds and was caught in South Timbalier Block 300 by Bill Weldon in May of 2009.