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Record tuna landed off inlet
By Kate House-Layton, Delaware State News
INDIAN RIVER INLET ? Charlie would be jealous.
Fishermen often tell tall tales about colossal catches, but a Virginia man and the captain of an Indian River Inlet fishing boat have the bragging rights and the proof of a record-breaking tuna caught Saturday night at Hot Dog Canyon, about 40 miles off the inlet.
David Collins, 34, of Frankford, captain of the Captain Ike II, kept in Indian River Marina, and Dan Dillon of Herndon, Va., caught the largest bluefin tuna on Delaware record.
Weighing 873 pounds and measuring 9 feet, 7 inches in length, 80 inches in girth, the fish outweighed the state's previous record catch by more than 500 pounds.
Roy Miller, administrator of the fisheries section of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's fish and wildlife section, said the previous record holder was a 322-pound big-eye tuna caught in 1992 by Mike Horner of Lewes.
"We couldn't believe our eyes," Aaron Hurd of DNREC's Division of Fish and Wildlife said in a press release.
Mr. Hurd officially identified and weighed the fish at the marina.
Mr. Collins, a professional fisherman, said the bluefin was caught when he took Mr. Dillon and three friends on a chartered overnight shark fishing trip.
According to the DNREC press release, Mr. Dillon caught the tuna with an 80-pound monofilament line on an 80-pound class reel using a blue fish fillet as bait.
"I'll have fish stories forever now," said Mr. Dillon, 39, a commercial real estate executive.
"We didn't know what the heck it was, we just knew it was big."
Don Cline, president of the Indian River Boating Association, said in the release that tuna caught with rod and reel usually range from 35 to 200 pounds.
Mr. Collins said it took two hours just to get the fish into the boat, which normally goes after smaller tuna and shark.
Because it was at night, the fishermen weren't initially sure what had caught their line.
"We were thinking we had a large shark and it wasn't until an hour later that we realized it was a tuna fish," Mr. Collins said.
The crew also caught a 100-pound maco shark and two more much smaller bluefin tuna.
Mr. Dillon said he's been sport fishing for about 20 years, but he's never caught anything quite so big.
"It blew the record for me too," he said.
"I'm a big person and it makes me look small," said Mr. Dillon, who is 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds.
Using a pulley, Mr. Collins, his mate Michael Magee of Millsboro, Mr. Dillon and his friends Steve Williamson of Dayton, Md., Jim Pohopin of New Market, Md., and Ralph Moore of Springfield, Va., mightily pulled the record tuna onto the boat.
Mr. Collins said he's caught bigger things before, just never had them on his boat.
"The problem was the fish was so heavy that the boat was taking in water," he said.
"We were a little nervous about that.
"A lot of people aren't geared up to catch a fish that large. I think that's one in a lifetime."
Mr. Miller said giant bluefin tuna are uncommon in Delaware or Maryland waters. The highly migratory fish are usually found this time of year in southern Canada and Massachusetts.
"I don't know why it would have been in these waters," he said, surmising that it was migrating when caught.
"There has never been a giant (bluefin) landed in Delaware before and I've worked for the state of Delaware for 30 years."
Jordan Zimmerman, DNREC's fisheries technician and tournament director of the Delaware sport fishing tournament, said the giant bluefin is one of the largest tuna, with a maximum weight estimated at 1,500 pounds.
Mr. Collins said it's hard to tell who gets credit for the catch.
"Definitely, the angler gets a lot of credit, but the boat also gets a lot of credit," he said.
"It's a team effort any way you look at it. One man isn't going to do it."
The fish was taken to Hook Em' & Cook Em' at the Indian River Marina for processing.
Mr. Dillon said the fish cuts were divided among the six people, but there was still plenty per share. He said he had a party Friday night with his family.
Mr. Dillon is one of eight children, so he shared the portions with family, friends and neighbors.
"I'm spreading my portion around pretty quickly," he said.
Owner and manager Bert Adams said the giant tuna netted about 500 pounds of steaks and loins, which is more than the equivalent of a side of beef.
"It's more like the equivalent of getting a whole cow and getting it put into 8-ounce steaks," Mr. Zimmerman said. "You'd have to buy a whole freezer."
Mr. Adams said he had to cut the steaks in half because his 14-inch knife wasn't big enough. One whole steak, he said, would easily feed four or five people.
The largest catch he'd processed before was a 522-pound thresher shark.
Mr. Adams said he typically charges about 40 cents per pound for tuna.
"We gave him a discount since it won the state record," he said.
Kate House-Layton can be reached at 741-8242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.