Kyle Davis swung the big fish into his 21-foot boat during the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo this summer and dropped it on the deck for a minute without thinking about what it had just landed.
The Irvington resident just thought the fish, a small tuna better known as bonito, would make good bait when going shark.
“I fished for blackfin tuna at 1,200 feet,” said Davis. “It wasn’t where I usually go fishing. I’m only on a 21 foot boat. I’ve pushed 74 miles out. I go a little further and we got into a good bonito school.
“We caught them in different sizes, some like this. We cut them in half to freeze them as bait. We decided to keep this one to join the rodeo. Little did we know that we had a state record on board. “
What Davis accomplished by hauling in this tiny tuna was the longest-held record in the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) saltwater record book. Davis’ bonito weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces, to top the 21.0 pound mark set by WA March Jr. of Mobile in 1956.
“If my buddy hadn’t called me the next day and told me it was a state record, it would soon be used as shark bait,” Davis said. “I called and asked the rodeo about it; they said nothing to do with it. Fortunately, I still had it in the cooler. When they told me they needed the fish, I cut it in half to freeze it. “
Fortunately, MRD biologists had plenty of evidence of catch by the rodeo and confirmed the species that is different from the smaller Atlantic bonita.
Rodeo fishing is a big deal for Davis and his pals. He admits he shifted the envelope a bit during the rodeo using a single outboard boat.
“We’re planning for the rodeo for a while,” he said. “At the beginning of the year I start to find spots with big fish and then leave them untouched until the rodeo. Honestly, I just swing it. When the weather is nice, I go far. If not, I’ll stay on land. “
“I usually don’t go more than 50 to 60 miles in my boat, but I like to go into pelagic waters and catch tuna. I like the taste of tuna. I tried to get tuna on board in a 21-foot boat just to be known as crazy. “
To get this far, Davis needs a little more fuel if he finds a bite that he can’t resist.
“I have an 80 gallon tank and get 2.9 miles per gallon,” he said. “I’ll put an extra 30 gallons in my console just in case. I tell my family that if I go this far, I will know where Louisiana is. Louisiana is closer than Dauphin Island, so I’ll tell them I’ll call them when I get to the Mississippi. “
On that fateful day during the rodeo, Davis said they “chunk” to get a tuna bite. Chunking involves cutting dead bait into smaller pieces and allowing it to float downward to attract the target species.
After the rods with the bait cut were pulled out, Davis took a rod with a 200 gram Shimano butterfly jig, dropped it and began jigging quickly.
“I dropped it, probably 500 to 600 feet, and tipped it back up,” he said. “I probably got to about 30 meters when I got into the Bonitos. We put three fish the same size as this one on the boat. “
Davis tried to get the fish back to the rodeo grounds in time for Saturday’s weighing, but he couldn’t get there in time.
“I had to hold the fish for another day and we went fishing again,” he said. “So it was Sunday afternoon before we could weigh the fish. I had the fish out of the water for a long time and still had the record fish. It would probably have been a little harder if I had been able to weigh it earlier, but I just didn’t get the chance. “
Davis’ little tuna wasn’t the only fish recently admitted to the record books. Tyler Van’t Hoff landed a 52-pound, 14-ounce Almaco jack. Bennie Goldman Jr. caught a 28 pound horse eye lifter and William Tyler Cruitt landed a keeltail pomfret that weighed 29.44 pounds.
In addition, two records were set for large game species, possibly during the first wave of Covid-19 last year. Ginger Myers, on the Fleur de Lis from Louisiana, landed a blue marlin with a state record of 851.9 pounds. The marlin was weighed during the Mongo Challenge at the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club in Orange Beach. In March 2020, Maurice Redell drove a 230 pound yellow fin tuna.
MRD Director Scott Bannon said the record fish shows how good the fishing is in Alabama waters and off the Alabama coast. He also said that breaking the little tuna record is special.
“That was the oldest record kept,” said Bannon. “It’s a big fish. State records are about bragging rights and showing what we have. It’s not a very desirable fish to eat, but it’s great as a bait and exciting to catch. They’re all muscled like a miniature tuna.
“When you see government records, it shows we have fantastic resources outside of Alabama. Anglers have great opportunities to take part in these fisheries. Everyone wants to catch the big one, and occasionally you get one in the record books. “
On other marine resource news, Bannon recently returned from the Gulf Council, where discussion focused on calibrating the state’s estimates of red snapper harvest dates.
The calibration promoted by NOAA Fisheries would take the data collected from the five Gulf States and “calibrate” them with the data collected through the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). This “calibration” would result in Alabama losing nearly half of its red snapper quota.
Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship attended the public comment portion of the meeting in San Antonio, Texas and delivered a passionate speech to the Golf Council on multiple facets of red snapper management. He also met individually with councilors from the other Gulf States to explain Alabama’s position on these issues. Its efforts proved fruitful when the Gulf Council voted 13: 3 to postpone any calibration until 2023, when the new inventory assessment should be completed. This new assessment should include data from the recently completed Great Red Snapper census, which showed the Gulf of Mexico has more than three times as many red snapper as previously counted by NOAA Fisheries. Surprisingly, Orange Beach’s Susan Boggs voted with NOAA Fisheries to cut Alabama’s quota. If passed, it could result in more than $ 45 million in losses to Coastal Alabama’s economy in the first three years of the amendment.
Bannon also said the next Golf Council meeting will be held October 25-28 at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, where one of the topics of discussion will be the status of the Cobia fishery.
“Cobia has been a hot topic lately,” he said. “The council holds public meetings on Cobia management options and one of these meetings will be held in conjunction with the council meeting. We want people who would like to discuss their concerns about Cobia to come to the council meeting in Orange Beach. “