“He’s one of the few guys who handles his rod through the whole thing from beginning to end,” commented Tommy to dock reporter Roecker.
The event came down during a morning on the Ocean Tackle Research ten-day trip with 18 passengers and chartermaster Lon Mikkelsen of Hood River, OR. Lon had the second-best tuna at 294 pounds.
Koonce is also from Hood River, and the pair fish together often. This time, as in the past, Lon put up the jackpot entry for Greg, since Greg doesn’t enter. He gets the winnings, too, along with his own second-place earnings.
“It happened in the morning,” related Koonce, “after I’d been out on the kite for what seemed like 20 minutes or so with a double sardine outfit. The fish boiled on the baits, and we all saw his tail, so we knew he was big.
“He made one long run away from the boat, and we went around the boat three times, and then he settled down on the bow. I wasn’t moving him much, so we locked down the drags on my reel and then he started coming up. I was using my OTR standup harness, and in another 30 minutes or so we got him to color, when it got exciting. I’d like to credit deckhand Mark Clark for his help. I’ve been fishing for 20 years.”
Skipper Rothery related what happened next:
Fish, Not Fire In The Hole by Tom Rothery
“Greg Koonce's turn on the kite didn't last too long as a hole was left in the ocean by the fish that erupted on his kite baits and the battle ensued. Greg is an excellent fisherman and did everything by the book to achieve deep color on his fish. His fish was one of the more cooperative fish in recent memory as its circles were just perfect coming up on the bow of the boat. Everything was fine as the fish was just a few feet away from gaff and then, it happened.
“Just when we thought it was all good, a Guadalupe Fur Seal swam by to get a closer look at an animal four times it size and the tuna spooked, took off with a burst of speed right around the anchor line. Just like that, in a matter of two seconds, the fish was wrapped in the anchor line and to make matters worse, the second hook for the double sardine rig caught the anchor line and the weight of the fish pulling on a stationary object broke the hook in the fishes mouth.
“No more hook and line attached to the fish and our hearts and the fish were beginning to sink. The fish was just out of gaff range in front of the anchor line, diving out of sight, and as all crew members attempted to gaff the fish, not one crew member on deck were able to sink a gaff in the fish...except for one. Galley assistant/deckhand/roving patrolman/waste management supervisor/all around nice guy and super-human Mark Clark was up on the cathead, and reached with all his might, hands on the butt end of the gaff, fully extended and on his knees on the cathead, managed to grab onto its tail.
“Now, if this fish would've made one kick with his tail and dove out, Mark would've joined him in the water. By the grace of the Fish God's, Mark was able to pull the fish up, tail first, and four other crew members sunk their hooks in this beast. The fish finally made it on board after a struggle to get over the rail.
Greg Koonce fished his sardines on Mustad 7691 7/0 hooks, on one of the boat’s kite rigs. Those rigs accounted for most of the nine cows caught on the trip, and consisted of the Mustad hooks, a short length of 200-pound P-Line leader tied to 100-pound P-Line mono and 130-pound Izorline Spectra on Tiagra 50 W reels, along with Calstar 6460 XXH rods. Koonce had a 199.4-pounder as well as the trip’s whopper."
Captains Tommy Rothery and Drew Henderson
(619) 390-7890 - Fisherman’s Landing
As things turned out in 2010 a bigger tuna was weighed some six weeks later:
All-Time Tuna Record: Hail To The Bull!
The record books have been waiting for this event for decades, but it may have surprised some to see the smallest boat in the long range fleet, Mike Lackey’s 80-foot Vagabond, come home with the biggest yellowfin tuna ever caught by a sport angler on hook and line. That’s what happened December 6, when the 405.2-pound tuna caught by Mike Livingston of Sunland was hoisted on the certified scales at Pt. Loma Sportfishing.
Lackey, a modest sort when it comes to skippers, had estimated the weight of the fish at 390 pounds when he taped aboard the boat. When it dangled from the scales and the weight soared over 400 pounds to settle at 405.2 pounds, a roar went up from a crowd on onlookers, photographers and cameramen pushing in to see.
Two-hundred-pound tuna have long been referred to as “cows,” since they’re mighty hard to budge on the line and even tougher to hump over the rail. Three-hundred-pounders have been dubbed “supercows,” and now there’s a need for a new category, since there’s a bull for the herd. The fish was accepted by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) as an official record, the all-time, all-tackle tuna for the yellowfin species, and the 130-pound line class record.
The length of the bull tuna, as measured by Lackey aboard Vagabond, was 85 ¾ inches, and the girth was 61 ½ inches. The taping formula of girth squared times length, divided by 800 yields this figure: 405.4099 pounds.
“You’ve printed my picture and name before,” Mike Livingston said to dock reporter Roecker, but you spelled my name Nike.”
“I promise I’ll get it right this time,” said Roecker to start the interview.
“I got him on a sardine,” said Mike, “and a 9/0 Owner Super Mutu hook. I used 100-pound Soft Steel Ultra line and 100-pound Power Pro Spectra on my Penn 30 reel, which was a gift from a buddy and was blueprinted by Cal Sheets. I custom-wrapped the rod. It’s a five and a half-footer, a no-name. After all those years, since 1974, I’ve been out fishing on many boats, and I get this one on a no-name rod! My best one before was about a 100-pounder.
“He fought for two hours and 40 minutes,” continued Livingston. “I only had a topshot of about 100 feet of mono and it had just gone into the water when he bit. He was a cooperative fish. He went from the port corner to the starboard corner quite a few times, and one he took me up the port side to the bow. When he came back he never left the stern again.
“When he struck I had 26 pounds of drag pressure on the reel. I’ve never had a big one hooked before, so I listened when (crewman) Timmy DePhilippis said to put the lever all the way up to full drag. Boy, that took me to my toes! I used all that the reel had and my fingers. The reel got real hot on that first run, but it cooled down again. When I finally got all my line back it was packed way down on the spool.”
Skipper Lackey said, “This fish is the culmination of all that came before. It’s my dream. It was made possible by all the development and the new gear that’s come about over the last 10 or 20 years.”
After a 400-pound fish some found it hard to get excited about 300-pounders, but there were two of those supercows weighed after the bull, and taking pictures of those was no problem, as the dock became almost deserted.
Jim Pea of San Diego put in two hours and 45 minutes of hard labor to deck his 334.8-pounder. He said he baited a sardine on a 7/0 Owner Offshore hook, tied to 100-pound Soft Steel Ultra line and 100-pound Power Pro Spectra. He used a Tiagra 30 W reel and a Tiburon six-foot rod.
Steve Meinster of Van Nuys bagged a 324.4-pound yellowfin with a sardine on an 8/0 Eagle Claw hook. He said he used 100-pound Seaguar Premier fluorocarbon tied to 130-pound Izorline Spectra on a Penn 50 reel modified by Cal Sheets and a Calstar 760 H rod.
“I had to catch him twice,” said Steve. “After two hours he got into a tangle and I had to freespool him until they got it worked out. That took about 15 minutes. Then I fought him again for another hour and 15 minutes to get him in. He took 650 yards of Spectra! It’s my third trip on the Vagabond.”
Captains Mike Lackey and Gordon Lackey
(619) 223-1627 - Point Loma Sportfishing