Tim Street of Valdese took his first offshore fishing trip on May 24, hoping to catch some dolphin and tuna — which he did. He didn’t think he’d return to the docks with a 32.5-pound skipjack tuna that has been certified as the new state record for that species.
Street, his son and some friends fished that day with Capt. Rom Whitaker on the Release out of Hatteras Harbor Marina, hoping to take advantage of a run of gaffer dolphin that was in full swing.
"We caught 32 dolphin, and one of them weighed 48 pounds," Street said. "We also released a blue marlin Capt. Rom estimated at 150 pounds and a sailfish. It would have been a great day even without this tuna, but it sure was icing on the cake."
It happened to be Street’s turn in the fighting chair when the skipjack tuna hit. Mate Andy Trant hooked him into the harness and handed him the rod, with a Penn 70 International reel already screaming with line peeling off.
"We actually had a double," Whitaker said. "I thought it was a pair of 50-pound yellowfins the way they took off. The other one ran a little harder and longer and was in the same size range, maybe even bigger, but it pulled the hook."
"We kept going and Andy told me to just point the rod tip at it and reel, Street said. "If the captain slowed the boat, it wasn't much. I wasn't used to this, but I kept reeling. For a long time, it felt like the fish was stuck to the bottom, but after a while he began coming in.
"This was the first time I had ever fought fish like this, and it seemed like I was reeling forever," Street said. “I'm guessing the fight was about 25 minutes, but it could have been a little more or a little less. It definitely was intense, and the fish never gave up. I was pretty spent when I finally got it to the boat."
Trant gaffed the tuna and heaved it over the transom into the cockpit. He and Whitaker were genuinely surprised it wasn't a yellowfin, saying it was the biggest skipjack they’d ever seen. Once they got within range of cell-phone service, Street’s son checked on his phone and found the state record was a 32-pound fish caught in the same general area off Hatteras in 2014.
"The captain and mate told me we needed to weigh the big dolphin and the skipjack," Street said. "Then, when we got in, there was a big marlin on the scales with lots of people taking their pictures with it, and they took their time getting around to weighing our fish. I had gotten pretty fired up about it by then and was wondering how much weight it had lost since we caught it. When the scales settled at 32.5, we all hollered.”
Street’s skipjack was 37 inches from nose to the tail fork and 25 inches in girth. It hit a ballyhoo rigged into a blue/white sea witch on a wind-on leader, 25 feet of 80-pound fluorocarbon tied to an 8/0 Mustad 7691 welded-eye tuna hook.