BRAWLEY — Five local fishermen had all but called it quits on the 2019 bluefin tuna season until they landed the fish of a lifetime 65 miles off the San Diego coast in the waters of San Clemente September 30.
“The bluefin had been around all summer long, pretty much, and we had already made two trips,” said angler Alec Babb. “This [third] time was like a 'go big or go home' kinda deal.”
According to frequent summer fisherman, many of the bagged tuna in the San Clemente area were being recorded around the 100-200 pound mark.
As the sun rose on windy conditions, the 50-foot Hatteras boat containing Raymond Babb, his son, Alec, Jake English, Mikelle Elliott, and Taylor Preece navigated through choppy waters.
“The snottier the weather the better, so we started running the kite as soon as the sun came up,” said Alec Babb.
The fishermen were utilizing a style of fishing known as a "Yummy Flier Rig" which incorporates a kite attached to a fishing rod with a swivel snap mechanism to keep the heavy line and lure suspended over the water so that the bait bounces on the surface similar to a flying fish.
“Our lines were so far out that we needed binoculars to see and then all of a sudden a huge explosion of white water erupted under our bait,” said Babb.
The four anglers took turns fighting the bluefin for roughly 45 minutes before finally landing the 323-pound behemoth.
“We wouldn’t have landed it if everyone wasn’t there, including my dad (Ray Babb) who was driving and had to maneuver the vessel to keep the bluefin from going under the boat,” said Alec Babb.
Once the lunker turned belly-up, the next fight began when three gaffs could barely lift the tuna’s head out of the water.
“It wasn’t till we used the fourth gaff, hoisted collectively, and got lucky that a wave rolled by to assist us in finally getting the bluefin over the rail,” said Alec.
The California record for bluefin is currently said to be 363 pounds.