The Leaping Tuna
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
" First be the fisher's limbs compact and sound, With solid flesh and well-braced sinews bound ; Let due proportion every part commend,
Nor leanness shrink too much, nor fat distend."
OPPIAN must have had this acrobat of the seas in mind when he pictured the physical requirements of the fisherman, as he who would try conclusions with the leaping tuna, with the rod, must be in good physical condition, and be skilled in the use of the rod and reel.
Tuna angling is purely a modern sport which I suggested ten or twelve years ago at the island of Santa Catalina, California, and, like many manly sports, it flashed into popularity and almost world-wide fame. The tuna is the horse-mackerel, the giant of the mackerel tribe, the doughty head of the family Scombrida; an ocean wanderer, a pelagic swash-buckler of the sea; now feeding upon bluefish, menhaden, or herring in the Atlantic, gorging itself with the great flying-fish or squid in the Pacific ; everywhere a terror to the smaller denizens of the deep. For centuries it has been caught in great nets in the Mediterranean Sea, on whose shores it is considered a dainty ; and from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Cape Cod it is more or less common in summer and occasionally harpooned, its crescent-shaped tail being seen on many a longshore fish house from Cape Breton to Swampscott, a talisman of good luck.
The fishermen along the coast of Nova Scotia, especially in the vicinity of Cape Breton, the mouth of the Myra River, and the region about Sydney, have long been familiar with the big fish which they call the " albacore," and which chases schools of herring into the great bays in July, August, and September, often playing havoc with nets. From inquiries among fishermen, I believe that the Atlantic fish averages much larger than those of the Pacific coast, entire schools of which often range from eighty to one hundred, and fifty pounds. In the Mediterranean, five hundred pounds is considered a large fish, and two hundred, according to Kingsley, is the average. At Cape Cod, near which they are often harpooned for the oil, Captain Atwood states that "the average size is about eight feet in length." According to Goode, the fish attains the weight of twelve or fifteen hundred pounds ; Cetti, the Italian naturalist, gives its maximum weight as fifteen hundred pounds. Dr. Storer describes one weighing one thousand pounds, which was fifteen feet in length, harpooned at Cape Ann in 1858; and Captain Webb in 1878 killed thirty in Gloucester harbor, which averaged one thousand pounds each. Dr. G. Brown Goode records one weighing three hundred pounds, which was harpooned at Minot's Ledge, August 16, 1856; another, nine feet long, weighing six hundred pounds, taken at Marblehead in the same year. In 1856 a horse-mackerel was taken off the town of Lynn, Massachusetts, which weighed one thousand pounds, was ten feet in length, and six in girth. It was harpooned and killed by three men in a dory, and the specimen was secured and presented to the Lynn Natural History Society by Dr. Joseph B. Holder, its president, father of the author..: This was the first tuna ever seen in a scientific institution in America. In July of this year Dr. Holder reported another fish, nine feet in length, and a third, taken at Nahant, almost as large, nearly one thousand pounds in weight. Dr. Holder reported to the society that these fishes were very plentiful in Massachusetts Bay in 1850, and that he had measured several which were ten feet in length. Another fish taken at Bass Point, Nahant, was examined by Dr. Holder and Louis Agassiz, who were then investigating the fauna of the bay; it was found to measure ten feet in length ; girth, six feet ; weight, six hundred and fourteen pounds. The discrepancy between weight and length in different fishes is one of the interesting features in controversial angling, the weight being a question of condition, not length.
On European shores the horse-mackerel or tuna reaches the Lafodin Islands in latitude 69°, and can be found well up on the Newfoundland coast in summer. It appears at Provincetown, Cape Cod, in June, leaving in October, and is harpooned for its oil, a large fish producing twenty-three or twenty-four gallons. Regarding the range of the fish in the Atlantic, Kingsley says : " Mr. Matthew Jones of Halifax, Nova Scotia, writes, ` The tunny is very common on the eastern coast of Nova Scotia in summer, and is known to the fishermen as "albacore." The Rev. Ambrose informs me that it regularly visits St. Margaret's Bay every summer, several specimens being taken and rendered down for oil. They were particularly abundant in 1876. They are never seen in the Basin of Minas.'"
That the Atlantic species, so far as seen, are mainly giants is shown by the condition of nets after their visits, Captain Atwood describing an eighty-yard net which had forty-seven round holes after a raid of these fishes ; the tunas had gone through it as through paper. In the Canadian Fishing Report of 1863 Dr. Fortin states that the fish is "quite abundant in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, especially the Bay of Chaleur and off Gaspe, and also in the straits of Belle Isle and Blanco Sablon Bay. It is also taken at Caraquette." Dr. Fortin adds, " The fishing is quite exciting, although tiresome and requiring a good deal of skill (steel hooks are used, tied to solid lines), as in the efforts to escape they pull with such violence as to endanger the lives of the fishermen by dragging them overboard." In the Mediterranean, the catch is entirely by a vast net, known as a madrague, which is very successful at Favignana, where as much as seventy tons of the fish, here known as the tunny, is taken at once. Attempts have been made to take the tunny in these waters with rod and reel, but so far have failed. The game was found in great abundance on the Italian coast, but for some reason it would not bite.
I first conceived the idea and fostered the hope of catching a tuna with a rod when measuring a giant specimen which hung in Fulton Market some twenty years ago. It had been harpooned in Massachusetts Bay, was about eleven feet long, and weighed in the neighborhood of one thousand pounds a type of all that is ponderous and massive in the true fishes. The following year I confided my ambition to a professional fisherman, a man of great intelligence, with whom I often fished at Ogunquit, Maine, and made various trips to the offshore banks near Boon Island Light in quest of the game which he assured me was there ; but though I fished with patience, trolling and anchored, tried all kindsof bait from moss bunkers to live pollock, I could never lure the Atlantic tuna, and indeed never saw one, though my companion related tales of monsters which came around his dory, feeding almost from his hand, when fishing for dogfish. In these waters the tuna never or rarely was seen, as it did not leap for its prey, there being no flying-fishes. In 1887 or 1888 I began to fish the waters of Santa Catalina, and here saw the same horse-mackerel or tuna, now feeding on the California flying-fish, to capture which it sprang into the air in magnificent bounds ; hence I called it the leaping tuna, to distinguish it from the non-jumper of the Atlantic. To take so large and powerful a fish smooth water was a desideratum, and so far as known, Santa Catalina, California, is the only locality where the fish has been taken with rod and reel ; and even here the fishing-grounds are limited to about four miles of coast in the lee of the island mountains, which afford several open bays, generally smooth, the wind blowing only part of the day, thus giving the angler conditions absolutely perfect, without which tuna fishing would be impossible and extremely dangerous.
It would weary the reader to detail my efforts to catch a tuna. I frequently hooked them, lost tips, rods, and lines, which were cheerfully offered at the shrine, and told the stories to incredulous listeners, all to no purpose. Horace Annersley Vachell, in his " Life and Sport on the Pacific Slope," who has written a delightful account of this sport, thus refers to this period of probation :
" The following excerpt, from an article written by my friend Charles F. Holder, is worth quoting:
"The activity of the tuna is only comparable to that of the tarpon. I have seen them leap ten or more feet into the air, while they have been known to jump over the boats in pursuit of them. Sportsmen from the East have devoted weeks to this fish, hoping to win fame and honor by taking one on a rod ; but so far the tuna has harvested the rods, reels, and lines, and is still master of the situation.'
At this time no large reels were obtainable. The rods were jointed and inadequate, and I recall one angler who devoted the entire season to an effort to take the elusive tuna. Finally a tuna was caught by Colonel C. P. Morehous, who used a reel made for the purpose, and immediately the pastime took its place, with that of tarpon fishing, among the most exciting of American sports. The advantage California has over other localities is that the tuna, being an oceanic fish, rarely if ever comes inshore nearer than seventeen or eighteen miles. It is very rarely seen near the mainland of California ; the island mentioned is about twenty miles out to sea, and a natural feeding-ground of the fish in summer, the alert tuna using the open bays into which to drive its victims, the California flying-fishes. The tuna boats of Catalina Island are designed for the purpose, and are mainly stiff, broad-beamed launches, built for three persons : two anglers, who sit side by side in chairs facing the stern, and the boatman, who is helmsman, gaffer, and engineer of the three or more horsepower gasolene engine. Overhead is an awning, which is raised by the gaffer when the strike comes, and each boat has a flag bearing the figure of a tuna, which is thrown to the breeze the moment a fish is hooked, so that interested spectators ashore can tell several miles away whether good luck is in the wind.
There are two essentials in tuna fishing, a cool, intelligent, and practised gaffer, and perfect tackle ; with these the novice can be assured that the responsibility for the loss of the fish rests on his own shoulders. As to tackle, I recall one angler who made a practice of never using the same line twice ; at the end of the day he presented it to the boatman. This is unnecessary,as a good line will last a season through if well used, but it illustrates the fact that some anglers take no chances. The reel most in vogue is made especially for the purpose ; it is as well put together as a watch, and costs from thirty dollars upward. It is of rubber and silver, and is so perfectly adjusted that a whirl of the handle will cause it to run some time. It must have a capacity of eight hundred feet of number twenty-one line when wet. It should have a melodious click, and a drag to prevent over-running, and attached to the lower or upper cross-bar there should be a leather pad lined with moose hide. This is the brake par excellence, used by pressing it upon the line with the thumb, and it should never be used unless the line is wet, as the friction will burn the line. The reel should always be lashed to the rod. As to the line, there are several makes in use. What is known as twenty-one cuttyhunk and one or two others especially made have all been tested on the tuna grounds. One particularly good line is of Irish. linen, hand laid; the twenty-one tested to pull forty-two pounds dead weight ; the twenty-four, forty-eight pounds; the eighteen, thirty-six; the fifteen, thirty pounds. A line of this quality is indispensable. By such a thread a tuna towed me in a heavy boat ten miles, the perfect line saving the day. For practice a number twenty-four is commended, but after the novice has landed a tuna a number eighteen line is sufficiently strong for a cool hand. A new line should always be soaked before using and stretched for a day previous to use, and allowed to dry in this way. I am aware that an opinion prevails that this takes the spring from a line, but I have always made it a practice. In the words of an expert, " This sets the lay of the line, and not only lessens the liability of kinking, but helps to even its strength." This will be appreciated by those who have watched the mental anguish of a brother angler whose line has kinked while the fish were biting.
The selection of a rod is important. A poor rod, or a very cheap one, is an impossibility. Large fish have been taken on small and light rods, but the well-equipped angler will find solace and comfort in going into the fray with perfect tackle. A good greenheart rod weighing twenty-five or twenty-six ounces, with one long tip and agate guides, seven or seven and a half feet long, will be found equal to the demands upon it. The tip must not be so pliable that a heavy fish cannot be lifted, nor so stiff that the rod will not bend; a happy medium must be selected. A split bamboo rod, costing from twenty to thirty dollars, is eminently adapted to the sport. One of the best rods for the purpose has a patent hard rubber butt into which the tip fits, the rod really being one piece with a short butt. It is of noib wood a species of greenheart of great tensile strength. This rod has heavy silver mounting, double bell guides, is six feet nine inches long, and weighs twenty-six ounces; with an extra tip the angler is well equipped, though he should never go tuna fishing with a single rod. In the equipment of the line, especially in the question of knots, every angler has his fancy. My own preference is for a plain bowline in fastening leader to line or swivel. I have heard many arguments against it, but have never had the knot wear or chafe off in the heavy work of tuna fishing. To those who do not care for the bowline there are others well known to the angler. Number r shows a simple knot for tying leader to line, the ends being merely cut off after tying. Number 2 is for a similar purpose. Draw the knot tight and cut the ends. Number 3 is a good knot for fastening line to the swivel, one easily made and as easily unfastened. Number 4 is an excellent knot to conjure with, giving easily to facile fingers. Number 5 shows a knot easily untied by jerking the end of the loop.
The leader, or snood, in tuna fishing should be six or seven feet in length, of phosphor-bronzed wire, and the next ten feet of line should be doubled. This will save many a fish, as in a long struggle the line is liable to chafe off on the back of the fish. To the leader is fastened .a Van Vleck hook, supposed among tuna experts to be very killing ; but a 10/0 O'Shaughnessy is equally effective a small hook for so large a fish. There should be at least three strong brass swivels between hook and line. The bait is a large flying-fish, which is hooked in various ways according to fancy. The tuna almost invariably strikes at the large black eye of the flying-fish, hence many hook the bait through the lips, barb up, and sew up the mouth to make the fish run smoothly. Others sew the hook along the body and have the point project through the abdomen near the vent, while others again use two hooks, one with a long shank a method which has nothing to commend itself. Another hook, suggested and used by Colonel Morehous, has a shank six inches in length and is double; that is, two hooks are welded together, back to back, one a little lower than the other [see Fig.]. In baiting this hook the long shank is laid along the belly and sewed to the fish, one hook penetrating the body near the vent, the other projecting. The mouth of the fish is sewed up and fastened to the shank. This is a very killing arrangement, and in view of the fact that the novice misses about eight strikes to one catch, it is admissible but I am an advocate for the plainest and simplest tackle on the ground of fair play to the game. The use of two separate hooks, one in the head and one in the tail of the bait, often used, is an unpardonable sin, as nearly all the fish come in foul hooked, one in the mouth, and one in the belly or side, a result which can but totally destroy the pleasure of a capture after a four or five hour struggle with the noble fish. In a word, the tuna should be approached with all the advantages on its side.
Such is the equipment, and the angler will do well to have several lines, at least two reels, and half a dozen baited hooks ready for immediate use, as it is the unexpected which invariably happens in tuna fishing, as in anything else. I have found besides duplicate rods a fishing valise of value. This contains the reels, lines, hooks and leaders, extra swivels, wire, pincers, pocket oiler, extra guides, chamois for the reel, compass, extra gaffs, hook, knife, rule, court-plaster, etc. At Avalon every boatman provides the well-equipped rods, but the angler who loves fishing as an art and a part of his life worth living, will own his tackle. The delights of angling are in a general way threefold. There is, first, the anticipation which lasts and is a solace through long winter months ; then the possession of tackle is a delight in itself ; and finally the catch. Of these the tackle the old rods and reels to talk over in the out season, to my mind, rank equally with the others. I retire my rods after adequate service full of honors, and as they hang on the wall, pensioned off, live over the incidents in their lives so deeply engraved on their responsive hearts. One, as a friend remarked, " is not much to look at," but beneath its scratches and weather-worn appearance lie a tenacity, spring, and strength worthy a rest for the remainder of its life, as there is "life" to a rod which departs in the course of time. With this rod I played a fish four hours; later, it landed a three-hundred-and-fifty-pound bass in the hands of a friend, and , then was invalided. Another slender split bamboo trout rod, on the retired list, brought in after an hour's struggle a thirtyfive-pound amber-fish ; and so on, one might go through the list of old rods which have a personality to the angler who really enjoys the sport in all its details.
It has been my fancy to experiment with comparatively light rods, and when fishing to use as nearly as possible a rod adapted to the fish ; that is, so light that in the balance of chance the game has a decided advantage. In fishing for tuna, tarpon, and the black sea-bass, the trio which are the tiger and elephant hunting of the angling world, the temptation is strong to use robust and short rods ; yet I took a one hundred and eighty-three-pound tuna with a three-jointed rod; have caught large yellowtails and sea-bass on a black bass rod ; and a ninety-pound tuna, that threw us into the sea a mile from shore, was killed with a delicate jointed greenheart rod, built and intended for yellowtail. Even Walton assumed an apologetic air when he approached a big fish story. " Because you say you love such discourses as these, of rivers, and fish, and fishing, I love you the better, and love the more to impart them to you. Nevertheless, scholar, if I should begin to name the several sorts of strange fish that run into the sea, I might beget wonder in you, or unbelief, or both, and yet I will venture to tell you a real truth."
So with the leaping tuna. If I should relate the experiences I have been witness to, I should surely " beget wonder in the reader, if not "unbelief," so extraordinary are they, so seemingly impossible ; and it is perhaps fortunate for this truthful history that there are forty or fifty " blue button members " of the Tuna Club who have survived their initiative, the taking of a one-hundred-pound fish, all of whom have had experiences equally remarkable, which make up the chronicles of this organization devoted to sea angling and the protection of game fishes.
The tuna moves north and south, in or out, with more or less regularity. It is due at Santa Catalina from the 15th of May to the 5th of June, generally soon after the arrival of the flying-fishes. For weeks perhaps anglers from all over the country have been waiting, vainly fishing, when suddenly in the offing a black, arrowlike object is seen to rise into the air, A splash, a rush of waters, dozens of flying-fishes radiating like gigantic dragon-flies in every direction, and the tuna season has begun. Every boat and angler is in a short time in the midst of the fray, and many strikes there are, but few are taken.
As to the time for tuna fishing, there is a difference of opinion. Some anglers are on the ground at daylight ; others follow the schools at all times. I have had better luck ; that is, more strikes, early in the morning on a rising tide, but the tuna is fickle game. At times it bites vigorously, then will cease without rhyme or reason, during which exasperating period schools of hundreds may be passed and crossed, the fish absolutely ignoring the various devices of the angler. The fishing-ground may be said to be from the point of Avalon Bay to Long Point, a distance of four miles, and from fifty feet to a mile offshore. The tuna is a strategist, and this shore-line, with its numerous open bays, the mouths of canons, constitutes a series of traps, into which they can charge the flying-fishes ; and when they are feeding, they can be caught on the edge of the kelp within twenty feet of the shore. The tuna does not travel in a single large school. That they arrive in a body is doubtless true, but when once on the ground they divide into small squadrons of from fifty to two hundred and are apparently preparing to spawn, playing on the surface, and on calm days, which are the rule in spring, they can be seen for a long distance, the spike dorsal out of the water, followed by the upper lobe of the sharp crescent tail. They move in the general form of flying ducks or geese: a large triangular figure, with one or two large fishes perhaps in the lead. They are so tame that a boat can approach within fifteen or twenty feet of them before they sink, and it is an easy matter to follow and circle the school.
In fishing we are on the beach at daylight. To the east great bands of vermilion are piercing the sky, and the entire heavens are blazing with a rosy light, the advance guard of the sun that presently comes up over the Sierras on the main-land like a ball of fire. The boatman, who is just in with fresh flying-fishes, reports tunas all along shore, and a few moments later we are shoving off, seated in the stern of a wide-beamed yawl. She is rigged with a two-horse power engine, but the boatman rows out into the bay, stopping to fasten on the leaders as we overreel. This accomplished, he rows on while we unreel the entire line to soak it an essential, as a dry line will burn off under the rush of a fish when the leather brake is applied. We are not out of the bay when a flying-fish is seen coming directly toward us, then another, and still another,
" Look out, sir ! " cries the boatman.
Look out, indeed. Two fliers pass over the boat, my companion and I dodging them, catching one, and then, not ten feet from us, a torpedo seems to explode, and the still water flies into the air a mass of gleaming foam. Quickly another rod is taken, the living flier hooked on and cast. We are surely caught unprepared, yet zeee-ee-zee ! a swirl of waters, a wail from the steel throat of the big reel, and the game is away. Gone ? yes, gone, and if it must be acknowledged, two tuna men, who imagined they were cool under any circumstances, have been robbed of bait and one hundred feet of line, and all in a moment, now sit dumfounded, then laugh at this phase of fisherman's luck. Manifestly the tunas could not wait for any lengthy preparation ; they came in to meet us ; we have met the enemy and we are theirs. The moral is, not to start from the beach until everything is in readiness and to be pre-pared for a strike the moment the bait is over, and all the time. A school of half a dozen tunas has entered the bay charging the flying-fishes, and is off up the coast, where we follow. Once around the point the tuna ground stretches away from point to point, four miles or more, of as beautiful water as the eye ever rested upon, with high rocky cliffs and blue-tinted mountains to the left, and everywhere as smooth as glass. Tunas are in a short time sighted, some leaping into the air, and as we move down the coast a heavy sea appears to be breaking on the Long Point rocks. But it is merely tunas feeding, each tuna as it rushes creating a whitecap ; and as hundreds are seen, the sight is a marvellous simulation of a storm on a sea of glass.
A flying-fish now comes soaring over the ocean a foot above it, and we know that just below is an eagle-eyed nemesis ready to pounce upon it like a tiger. We know that the tuna and its mate are swimming at an angle, canted, or, as the boatman says, with a " list," that its big, black, hypnotic eye may follow each move of the flier. The latter has soared nearly two hundred yards and begins to flag ; its tail drops lower and lower, then touches the water to beat it furiously, at which there comes a rush of waters as the tuna attempts to seize its game. But the flying-fish in these few seconds of impact has stored a fresh supply of force, or inertia, and now soars away in a slightly different direction, a foot above the surface, the tuna still beneath it, uncertain whether to leap or to wait until the weary victim shall drop into its maw. It is here that we are treated to the lofty leaps of the tuna. If the latter is swimming deep in the chase, it occasion-ally dashes upward after the soaring fish, often missing it and rising ten or more feet into the air a magnificent spectacle. Attaining its limit it turns gracefully and drops headlong into the sea. I have seen such a fish strike the flying-fish and send it whirling upward like a pinwheel. Again the tuna will seize its prey in mid-air, as will a man-of-war bird.
While we have been digressing on came the flying-fish, crossing our bait by a lucky chance, or by the strategy of the boatman. We could almost feel the premonitory crash ; every nerve was tingling with expectation; then twenty feet from the bait there was a rush, the tunas had sighted them, and for several feet they raced along, for there were two (generally the case), hurling the water, arrows aimed at the baits. They had been deflected from the flier, and while the water swirled astern, the cry of two reels rose on the morning air. Vainly the leather thumb brakes were pushed upon the line; the latter slipped beneath it in feet and yards, then one reel became silent, the slack line telling the story of a flaw, or possibly too much thumb power, or a rusty leader. Despite every effort the tuna tore the line from the reel, the boatman backing with all his strength, endeavoring to force sternway on the boat before the line was fully exhausted. .Five hundred feet had slipped away and the boat was sliding through the water at a rapid rate when suddenly the line slackened, the game was gone. No, the line was doubling in, and springing to my feet I witnessed a splendid movement of the gamy fish, one which I have never seen repeated. The tuna had turned and was literally charging the boat, el taro of the sea, coming on like a gleam of light, its sharp dorsal cutting the water. I reeled with all my speed, knowing that if I was caught on the turn with an unknown amount of slack line, the end might come ; but fifty feet had not been gained before the tuna was within fifteen feet of the boat, then seeing me it turned and was away like an arrow from a bow. The big reel groaned as the crash came, but the brake was thrown off and my thumb played upon the leather pad with rare good luck, with just sufficient force to prevent overrunning. I gained enough line during this spectacular performance to stop the fish at three hundred feet, and held it by the thread of line while it towed the boat out to sea. A mile it took us, now plunging into the deep heart of the channel, to rise again with throbs which came on the tense line like heart-beats and found an echoing response. I gained ten feet to lose five, then would lose twenty to recover all, and more by vigorous "pumping," as the fish sulked and labored at the bottom of the sea. Suddenly I felt the line humming, vibrating like the cord of some musical instrument as the great fish rose, and as it reached the surface with a mighty swerve that gave the boatman active work to keep us astern to the game, it turned and again charged me. I rose, reeling rapidly. as ., I watched the splendid trick ; for trick it was, an attempt to take me unawares, running in on the line to break it if possible in the outrush. Again the fish turned hard by the boat and dashed away, this time inshore, towing us a mile or more, and within fifty feet of the rocks and their beard of kelp where I succeeded in turning it, and now gained so rapidly that I had the fish within a short distance of the boat. The boat-man was fingering his gaff, when, with a magnificent rush, the tuna tore from the reel three hundred feet of line, undoing the strenuous labor of nearly two hours. The fish appeared to be seized with a frenzy. It rushed around the boat at long range, plunged deep into the blue water as though searching the bottom for some obstacle upon which to rub the line, then rising with a strange bounding motion which was imparted to the rod, again charged the boat.
For three hours I fought this superb fish, during which it towed the boat from near Avalon to Long Point, then several miles in and out, repeatedly charging, never giving signs of weakening, always bearing away with its full force. At the end of three hours I again brought the fish to within fifty feet of the boat, when it again broke away and towed us four miles south, occasionally stopping to rush in, and once carried us out into rough water, towing the boat stern first against the heavy seaway so rapidly that I expected to see her fill; but by sheer good luck I turned the fish, and at the end of four hours brought it to gaff. Slowly it circled the boat and for the first time we saw that the fish was what we had suspected, of unusual size. As it slowly swam along, its big back of a deep blue, its white belly occasionally gleaming as it turned, its finarettes flashing gold, it presented a magnificent spectacle, a compensation for the hardest struggle I had ever made. Nearer it came, then it was turned at the quarter, the boatman's gaff slid beneath, and the big hook struck home. It was a clever gaff, but with a tremendous surge the tuna sounded, shivering the handle in the gaffer's hands, and was away taking the wreck with it. Fortunately I stopped the rush, and a few moments later again had the tuna alongside. This time a new gaff held it, the gamy creature, never conquered, never discouraged, lashing the water, hurling it over us, a last defiance. A nervous gaffer would have lost the fish at this stage, but the boatman held fast, and stepping on the gunwale pressed it down to the water's edge and cleverly slid the quivering, struggling tuna into the boat, where it pounded the planking with such vigorous blows that the small craft trembled from stem to stern. As its fine proportions were revealed, I realized that we had landed the largest tuna ever taken with a rod. Its actual weight was about one hundred and eighty-seven pounds; its scale record weight on shore after bleeding was one hundred and eighty-three pounds; its length was six feet four inches. This catch suggested the Tuna Club, and for two years this fish was the record catch of this organization. I have taken a number of tunas since, and have seen a large number caught, but have never known a fish that so thoroughly exemplified the word " game "; and in justice to this splendid fish which is now in the possession of a Chicago angler, I must confess that a few moments more would have placed me hors de combat.
For staying qualities and hard fighting the tuna in its best condition excels any game fish I have taken, and one secret of success is to fight it continuously without stopping, as when the angler is resting the fish is also recuperating. So fiercely do certain tunas fight that I have more than once seen them die suddenly, and a few moments after a desperate rush come up again dead. I have been one of three anglers to battle with a tuna five hours. This fish, though sorely wounded, towed the boat an estimated twenty miles; and had we not, seeing that night was coming on, and that we were out of sight of Avalon in an open boat, hauled it in by hand, I am confident that the fish, which weighed but one hundred and twenty-five pounds, might have towed us across the Santa Catalina channel or for an indefinite distance. Another tuna fought Mr. W. Woods and boatman fifteen hours and then escaped. Yet other fishes are caught in from thirty minutes to an hour. During the season of 1902 Judge Beaman of Denver, Colorado, fought a tuna of unknown size, which towed the twenty-two-foot launch from near Avalon, across the channel, to the vicinity of Point Firmin, an estimated twenty-one miles, in six hours and a half. The fish was lost at. the gaffing; the line had chafed off at the swivel. Many tunas, as stated, are caught in a short time; but, as a rule, such fish are in poor condition, or have just spawned, and lack their normal vigor.
The largest tuna ever taken with rod and reel was landed by Colonel C. P. Morehous of Pasadena, California, in four hours ; it weighed two hundred and fifty-one pounds, and is the record today. Mr. H. Gray Griswold of New York succeeded in taking a number of fishes in less time than had been previously accomplished, and demonstrated that they could be caught at any time during the day. The largest number taken in any one season fell to the rod of Mr. E. L. Doran of Avalon, who has done much to make this sport what it is, having been one of the early pioneers in the strenuous pastime.
Among the exciting 'personal experiences incident to this sport which I recall was being capsized by a tuna nearly a mile offshore. I was trying the experiment of tuna fishing with a light jointed rod, seven and two-thirds feet long, weighing about fifteen ounces, which I used for yellowtail. I hooked my fish, and after a beautiful surface play of forty minutes brought it to gaff. Jim Gardner, the boatman, gaffed it cleverly and landed it, when the fish made a convulsive leap and fell upon the gunwale, capsizing the boat, which sank beneath us, rising bow up, covering the water with gaffs, oars, and other wreckage of the angler's art. My companion, Mr. Townsend of Philadelphia, could not swim, and was otherwise embarrassed by a heavy overcoat ; and as the boat rolled over and evidently would not hold three, Gardner and I started to swim to the launch, which had been lying off, some distance away, and which was now coming up, while Mr. Townsend rested upon the bottom of the boat, assuring us that he was all right. As I neared the launch I heard the boatman's wife, who was aboard, scream that her husband was drowning, and turning, saw that Gardner had disappeared. Visions of certain big hammerhead sharks flashed through my mind but as I stopped, endeavoring to look down into the blue depths, up he came, and I discovered that he still held my tuna by the gaff ; in fact, he had never relinquished his grasp upon the handle, and was towing the fish, the latter, as it occasionally plunged downward, taking the plucky gaffer out of sighta performance extraordinary in its nature, which was repeated three times. Each time Gardner, who was a professional swimmer previous to his boating career, dragged the tuna to the surface, and after an exciting and exhausting swim we were picked up, the launch and a fisherman from shore reaching us about the same moment, Gardner securing a rope which his wife tossed him. I was burdened with a heavy corduroy hunting suit and leggings, and found that I could not lift myself aboard, nor could the two men haul me in, so I was lashed to the rail, Gardner throwing his legs about the propeller. In this position we rested a moment, then by a supreme effort I was hauled in, and while the crew held me by the legs I leaned over ; and as Gardner lifted up the still struggling fish, I thrust my arm into its mouth and grasped it firmly by the gills ; Gardner took a half hitch about its tail with a rope, and the men hauled upon my legs, and with a resounding cheer we dropped the leaping tuna into the cockpit a laughable climax to a seemingly irrational and impossible fish story. The tuna, which hangs on my study wall, weighed but ninety-five pounds. It is need-less to say that Gardner received the prizes of the Tuna Club for the first tuna of the season won in the angling tournament of that year.
The rush of the tunas as they drive in the frightened, demoralized flying-fishes is an exciting and dramatic sight. Droves of the fliers are forced out of the water, often to the beach, and the wind, catching their wings, will take them twenty or more feet into the air, where they soar away like a flock of gigantic insects, gleaming in the sunlight like silver. In this pastime the tunas are fearless. They dash into the kelp, high in air, or occasionally out upon the rocks; in the case of a friend one leaped over the stern of his boat. One evening at dusk a school of tunas drove the flying-fishes inshore, and as they passed over and struck our boat, one coming at full speed hit me behind the ear, nearly knocking me out of my seat. Such are some of the incidents, more or less amusing, in this strenuous sport among the Californian islands.
Of all fishes the tuna is the acrobat of the sea, though I doubt if the horizontal leap of thirty feet, accredited to a Texan tarpon, has been equalled by it ; but as a high and lofty tumbler, a figure of grace, the tuna equals the tarpon. The leap of the latter is a wild bound into the air, accompanied by a vigorous shaking of its bony jaws, the object being to send the hook flying through the air ; and the leap, though sensational, is not particularly graceful. That of the tuna is accomplished as a result of the attempts of the fish to seize its prey, the flying-fish, in the air, and is made almost directly upward at the flier, which is a foot or more above the surface. As a rule, the mark is missed, and the living arrow darts upward six, eight, ten feet at rare intervals, then turns with the perfection of grace and plunges headlong into the sea. It is manifestly impossible to measure such a leap, yet on one occasion I thought that I saw nearly fifteen feet attained, though I may have been mistaken, and freely confess to the excitement so often an aid to the imagination. At the time the observation was made I was drifting in the largest school of tunas I had seen. I had noticed the school sweeping up the coast of the island, the channel covered with whitecaps for acres, caused by the rushing, leaping fish, and had rowed out in a light skiff to meet it. Tunas were in the air on all sides others rushing along the surface, while the flying-fishes soared in all directions in such numbers that I watched them carefully to avoid the winged projectiles. Looking down I could see numbers so terrified that they swam close to the keel to elude the savage tunas. The latter were leaping and plunging about me, and I realized that if one fell into the boat it would pass through it as though paper ; hence believing discretion the better part of valor, I began to row out of the school, but not before I had attempted a mental calculation of the height of some of the leaps which were being made about me. As I stood upon the seat of the skiff, the rushes of the tunas into the air appeared to the excited spectator, who may in these few moments have seen things which did not exist, to reach a point five or six feet higher than his head.
The possibility of approaching schools of these fish suggests various methods of taking them. That most in vogue is to follow a school and endeavor to head it off, or so encircle it that the bait will cross the leaders ; as a rule, two strikes are had if two lines are out, and several times both fishes have been saved. I have succeeded in obtaining a strike when tunas were not biting by heading off the school and casting into it, which is accomplished by reeling the line all in, having the heavy flying-fish as near the tip as possible. When the bait lands in the school with a splash, the tunas evidently consider it an exhausted flying-fish alighting, and forthwith charge it. When other methods have failed, they have been induced to bite by running a launch at full speed, with a large, brilliant bait, a white rag, or a large bone jig; this was the method adopted by the professional fishermen years ago, a fast sail-boat being used ; but in this way only a hand-line can be employed to advantage. The tuna will readily bite up to eight o'clock at night, or until the phosphorescence becomes too brilliant, and often in the morning at Avalon flying-fishes are found in boats or on the beaches, where they have soared to avoid this rapacious fish.
The breeding habits of the tuna in this region are unknown. The Mediterranean is a breeding ground, and doubtless the Santa Catalina channel is a depository for the spawn, which is laid in the open sea floating on the surface, but young tunas have never been seen here ; the smallest observed were about three feet in length, the average adult weighing about one hundred and fifty pounds. In 1902 schools of tunas were seen in February, several fishes being hooked and one caught in March ; but this was unusual. It is supposed that they are offshore either in deep water or in milder regions to the south in the larger field of the open sea. In appearance the tuna, Thunnus thynnus of science, the king of the mackerels, is trim, attractive, a type of activity, a model of speed, and doubtless the giant of the true fishes, attaining a weight of fifteen hundred pounds or more; a well-equipped foeman for the angler who goes down to the sea after large game.
In the winter the fishes take to warmer water in the open sea ; at least this is the supposition, as vessels report them at various times. The tuna was first described by Linnaeus, and there is but a single genus and species, the fish being a world-wide wanderer in the warmer seas. In the water the fish appears green, with flashes of yellow ; but when landed, the back or upper portion is seen to be a vivid, even iridescent blue, the lower portion silver, in some instances gray. The body is oblong, shaped like the model of some modern yachts, evidently built for speed. The tail has a decided fork, and is a powerful organ, upon each side of which are pronounced keels. The dorsal fin fits into a scabbard, and the side or pectoral fins in old individuals fit into shallow depressions. The scales are seemingly covered with an outer skin. The first dorsal is strong and powerful, and contains from twelve to fifteen spines ; the second dorsal and anal bear a spikelike fin, following which are from eight to ten finlets, colored a vivid yellow. The teeth are very small, so that the prey sardines, flying-fishes, or squid - is crushed rather than cut. The flesh of the tuna is excellent, dark and meat-like ; but owing to the quantity of other kinds of edible fish it finds little favor among Americans, the catches being taken by Italian and Portuguese fishermen along the Pacific coast. On the Mediterranean it is greatly in demand, but in America its chief value is to anglers, who will go thousands of miles to take it, the sport and that of tarpon fishing well illustrating the importance of a mere pastime as one of the assets of a state. The tarpon brings thousands of dollars into Florida and Texas. The game commissioners of Maine estimate that sportsmen bring five million dollars into their state yearly, while at a recent trial involving the protection of the game fishes of California a commissioner testified that the game of all kinds of the state brought two million dollars to the coast per annum, which shows that sport has become one of the assets of the nation, to be carefully protected and conserved in the interests of the people.