There’s a reason bluefin tuna is expensive. The massive fish are strong, fast and difficult to catch.
When Jason Davis set out on his first tuna fishing trip earlier this month, he knew he’d be fighting an uphill battle.
That’s why the Fuquay-Varina resident was blown away when he and his crew caught two massive bluefins over two consecutive days off the coast of Morehead City.
Recently, Davis and his two-man crew reeled in a 785-pound, 119-inch bluefin, which Davis believes is the biggest fish caught at Morehead City in several years.
The next day they landed a specimen topping 683 pounds on the scale and measuring 109 inches.
Both were to be auctioned off in Japan and could fetch tens of thousands of dollars each.
“I asked this dude who’s an experienced fisherman, what’s the odds of that?” Davis said of the consecutive days of success. “He said one-in-a-million. It’s unheard of.”
‘It’s a monster’
Davis, a 37-year-old seasoned saltwater fisherman, mainly goes after medium-size fish such as Wahoos and Mahi-mahi on his weekend trips. But he told himself he would get a tuna, despite his lack of experience.
He said having the right gear was key. He spent $3,500 on equipment just for this trip.
It was well worth it.
Davis has never read Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” but will identify with the title character if he ever does.
The first fish only took an hour to reel in, but the second tuna fought for four hours.
“He said, ‘I know you didn’t fight that other fish the other day but for an hour, so I’m gonna show you what a tuna’s supposed to do,’ ” Davis said.
After seeing how big the first tuna was, Davis decided to haul it on board instead of stringing it alongside the boat for the ride back. He said it took hours to get each fish on the 33-foot boat named “The Grady Bunch.”
“The worst thing you could have is a shark taking a bite out of him,” he said. “We had 14-foot hammerheads all around us.”
When Jason, his 11-year-old son Hunter and crew got back to shore, they were swarmed by stunned fishermen envious of the big tuna, Davis said, as well as his wife, Wendy, and their daughters.
“When he called and said, ‘Wendy, it’s a monster,’ I cried and cried,” Wendy said. “It was so amazing.”
The family, who owns a condo at the beach, took pictures. But Hunter said the pictures don’t truly show how colorful and magnificent the tuna looked in person. In one photo, Hunter sits on the fish like it’s a couch, with his feet barely touching the floor of the boat.
“It’s a magnificent animal,” Jason Davis said.
A whale of a tale
But the pictures didn’t convince one of Hunter’s classmates at Johnathan’s House Christian School, who accused him of Photoshopping the fish because it was just so huge.
“They were all impressed, but there was one guy who thought it wasn’t real,” said Hunter, a fifth-grader.
Jason Davis, who owns Jason Davis Grading, said even some professional fishermen had trouble believing what they saw the marina’s crane hoisting up from Davis’ boat.
The man who runs the fish market on the docks told Jason Davis that “there’s guys who fish their whole lives and never see a fish that big.”
“He said there’s no telling how many lines those fish have broken,” Davis said.
Davis doesn’t know how much his fish will be worth in Japan. Tuna sometimes sells at around $30 a pound, meaning the combined 1,468 pounds they caught could fetch more than $40,000 — although the money will be split among Davis, his crew and various intermediaries in North Carolina and in Japan.
But even without the financial reward, Wendy Davis said the family’s beach trips and fishing expeditions have paid off in other ways.
“The kids have met some marine biologists and other people like that,” she said. “They’ve got such a good education they never would otherwise.”