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I was walking down the old CBS Highway, after walking my girl friend home and was picked up by Derek Stafford. It was June 1966. Derek asked me if I would like to work on the tuna boat Ashtar for the summer. He was the captain and needed a first mate. The Ashtar was owned by The Harvey group of companies.
The only tuna that I had seen was on what we called the tuna wharf in Long Pond. All I knew it was a big fish and someone had cut some of the meat of the tuna. I was seventeen and a greenhorn but it sounded like it would be adventurous and a great way to spend the summer and get paid.
Tuna fishing was different then fishing for trout with a rod. Keeping your rod tip straight, with the line, was the major similarity. The reel was massive and the line was, I believe, a 130lb test. I was to man the chair, let out the line, set the hook and the drag. When we brought the tuna to the side of the boat, I had to gaff it when the captain gave the ok. The one fear I had was breaking a rod.
We would steam around Conception Bay in search of a school of tuna. When we found a school, the captain would bait the hook with a mackerel, I believe we called it a mackerel teaser. He would position the boat a distance in front of the school and troll the bait in front of them. You were in anticipation as you waited for the hit.
You knew when you hooked one of those big fish. The line screamed off the reel and you had to ensure that you had the right drag set or you might break the line or pull the hook. The fight was on!
One of my vivid memories is the day we hooked and landed three tuna off the Harbour Grace Islands. It was a foggy drizzly day and we had three prominent guests on board. I noticed that they had brought aboard a lot of liquor and I was surprised how much they were drinking.
The first two tuna we landed were without incident but the third was challenging. The gentleman, in the chair, was over-weight, out of shape and drunk. He was unable to fight the tuna so I had to control the chair and land the tuna. It was a struggle.
When we arrived at the tuna wharf and had the tuna off loaded, the guests had to climb a ladder to the wharf. It was about 10 feet from the deck to the wharf. The first two guests were on the dock and the over-weight gentleman started to climb the ladder. I noticed he was having a problem so I decided to stand behind him in case he slipped. He did! I don’t think anybody noticed but I was able to stop him from falling backwards onto the deck of the boat. No words were spoken. Eventually, he was able to get up to the dock and pictures were taken of their success. I can imagine the stories they told about their fishing trip. I was only 17 years old, young and naive
More tuna stories to be added. See tuna photos etc. here
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I believe we hooked 42 tuna that summer.
note: I believe they were called horse mackerel.
I recall one day that Lee Wulff was fishing on one of the boats. I believe it was The Newfoundland Government’s boat. In 1967 he caught a 597lb tuna on a 50lb test line. At the time, this was a world record.
World record tuna..1496lbs, the big kahuna, caught off Nova Scotia. World Record Tuna
Land and Sea Tuna episode here
Old video tuna fishing newfoundland
Tuna schooling Newfoundland.