Four Mississippi fishermen spent March 30 fishing for yellowfin tuna on one of the world’s highest-rated hot spots, in the Gulf of Mexico about 80 miles south of Pass Christian, Miss.
They got only one yellowfin bite, but boy, was it a big one.
The 236.6-pound tuna, officially caught by Mike “Mikey” McElroy III of Hattiesburg, Miss., after a fight of more than 5 hours, will soon be certified as Mississippi’s record. It bests the previous mark by 31 pounds.
“Mikey was on the rod the whole time,” said Ryeley Jacobs of Ocean Springs, Miss. “We hooked up the big fish at 2 o’clock, and we boated it at 7:15 p.m. His dad Mike was running his 29-foot Twin Vee boat, the Hook N Bull. Luke Myers and I were on the gaffs.”
Tuna fishing on the popular area of the Gulf known as the “Lumps” is not easy from a Mississippi port. They were fishing the East Lumps, in about 260 feet of water, a three-hour run due south.
“We got out there early and caught our bait: some blackfin tuna and bonito,” Jacobs said. “There were like 25 or 30 boats out there, mostly from Venice, and other than the blackfin, it was slow for everybody. Nobody was getting any action, and after lunch most started leaving to go chase other fish like wahoo.”
Things get interesting
About 1:15 or 1:30, the Mississippi boat marked a big fish on the electronics but couldn’t entice a strike.
“We were chunking (chumming) blackfin and bonitos and drifting, and it was so long between marking the fish and the strike; we’re pretty sure it was not the same fish,” Jacobs said. “Then, right at 2 p.m., we hooked up. We never marked the fish that hit the chunk of blackfin. A boat close to us hooked up at almost the same instant, but they wound up breaking their rod and losing their fish.”
It was a epic battle, long in time and distance. McElroy was using a Shimano 30W, with braid backing on the spool, with about an 150-yards top-shot leader of 80-pound mono with a 10-foot section of 80-pound fluorocarbon leader.
“There was, I think, three times that Mikey got well into the braid backing,” Jacobs said. “Then he’d get it back. Then the fish would go again and take it back into the backing. We followed that fish 5 miles from where we hooked up until it finally came up and made two big circles next to the boat.
“On the second, Mikey got him close enough for me to get a gaff into the fish. Then, Luke got another one, and Capt. Mike got the third one in him. Then, we just pulled him over the side.”
Satisfied and extremely tired, the crew fired up and headed home. They arrived at Pass Christian a little after 10 p.m.
The official measurements
The next day, the crew gathered and met a biologist from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources at Gollott’s Seafood in Biloxi, Miss., where the fish was officially measured and weighed. The fish was 68 inches long and 51 inches in girth.
McElroy’s tuna will require a certifying vote by the MDMR Commission, which was expected to take place at the panel’s next meeting.