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4hr Battle with Cape Cod Bluefin Tuna on Spinning Rod Ends in Heartbreak

Ryan Collins

This past Sunday I found myself miles offshore, surrounded by bluefin tuna, as I fished with captain Cullen Lundholm of Cape Star Charters and two year MFCC member Aaron Permlutter.

We had numerous shots at big fish throughout the morning, but the tunas were being finicky, and were not easily fooled. In addition, dense fog was at times making it difficult to find and stay on the fish. 

Yet whenever the fog cleared, we saw tunas crashing and jumping out of the water. Seeing fish of this size busting on the surface as they chased bait at max speed really got the adrenaline pumping!

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The fish were tough to fool, but at 12:30pm our luck changed in a big way. We spotted tunas crashing on the surface off the bow and raced over to the feed. The fish were still up on top chasing bait when we arrived, and I was able to fire a lure directly into the maelstrom. 

I watched a big tuna boil on my lure and I hooked up almost instantly. Aaron also had a big hit - thank God Aaron did not hook up or we would of been in serious trouble with two big tunas on at the same time!

About 45 minutes into the fight we caught glimpse of the tuna for the first time. It was a big fish in the 95 inch range. A tuna that large could easily weigh more than 500 pounds. This was by far the largest tuna myself, Cullen or Aaron had ever hooked on a spinning rod. 

Fast forward another hour and fifteen minutes and I am still holding onto the rod for dear life. Two hours into the battle I had no choice but to ask for relief, so I passed the rod off to Cullen.

While Cullen fought the fish I took a moment to stretch out my back.

Fighting a tuna on a spinning rod is physically demanding, I do not recommend you attempt to catch a tuna on a spinning rod unless you have a fit and able crew. The stress these fish exert on your body and your equipment is overwhelming!

Aaron took over the helm as Cullen and I took turns fighting the fish.

3 hours into the fight we got another quick look at the tuna as it came up to the surface. We motored over to the fish in an attempt to throw the harpoon but the tuna sounded, taking dozens more yards of line from a reel with a drag that was set to over 35 pounds of pressure.

4 hours into the battle and my entire body was beginning to scream at me. The fish was pinned at 130 feet beneath the boat, and simply would not budge. It was at this moment that Cullen hopped up on the gunnel, pulling up on the rod while I reeled. In this fashion we began to gain line, albeit at an agonizingly slow pace.

Finally it appeared that we might have a chance at landing the fish.

At 4:30pm we had the tuna less than 50 feet beneath the boat, and we were slowly making progress. Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, all our hopes and dreams were dashed when the tuna made a slight movement and the hook pulled. 

The fish was gone and Cullen and I collapsed onto the deck of his boat in disbelief.

Aaron stared on from the helm, and we all fell into a collective group silence, unable to comprehend how after 4 hours the hook popped with the tuna about 30 feet away from the boat. I was devastated and my body was cooked.

Nevertheless it was an experience to remember and I caught the entire sequence on video. Please check back on the website over the coming days for more information about targeting tuna on spinning gear this September/October off Cape Cod, and to watch the complete video from this trip.

In the meantime, members of My Fishing Cape Cod can click the download button below for more information about what these tunas were feeding on, plus information about the gear, lures and tackle that are working best.

Tight lines 🎣

Member Download

Lure Used To Hook This Tuna + Rod & Reel Used + Type of Leader + The bait these tunas were feeding on

I’m fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I’ve been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  1. I was fishing with the Reel Deal charter on Sunday and had almost the identical thing happen to me. 4 hours, pulled us 6 miles and we had 4 different guys try to bring it in. Heartbreaking and I’m still sore! I never thought I’d say this but I wish there were some smaller fish around!

    Reply
    1. Oh man I heard all about that fish Patrick! Devastating! There are definitely some monsters out there this summer.

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  2. Great story — epic battle on spinning gear! Too bad you didn’t catch this one. What type / strength hooks are on the Siren Lure?

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    1. That’s a good question Peter. I’m not sure what those hooks are. Anyone else know?

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  3. Wow, well told and gut-wrenching… I know that silence (don’t we all!). Smaller tackle – especially spinning – is brutal, but it evens the battles, and makes the victories that much more sweet. Cheers

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    1. Well said Holt. Cheers and tight lines!

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  4. You told me you lost a fish after 4 hours… you didn’t mention it was on spin!!!! Wow! can’t wait to see the footage.

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    1. Going through the video footage now. Hope to get it up on the site by the weekend!

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  5. Heartbreaking – I have a feeling you will get another chance soon…

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    1. I hope so Tim! Just good to know there are plenty of quality fish out there.

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  6. Hey Ryan, isn’t that reel capable of like 60lbs of max? Wouldn’t you crank it down all the way and max it out if you’re fighting a fish of that size? Also curious as to what kind of rod you were using? i’m sure it is a custom.

    Reply
    1. You could crank it down all the way, but that would exert a tremendous amount of pressure on the angler and the tackle.

      Towards the end of the fight we cranked down the drag to what was probably close to 50 pounds of pressure. It was brutal on my back! It also might of contributed to losing the fish. The tail hook on the lure was slightly bent, which could of been caused by the extreme amount of drag pressure we applied to the fish.

      I just added info about the type of rod we were using here > https://myfishingcapecod.com/extended-report-4hr-battle/

      Reply
      1. I had that happen on the first big Striper I ever hooked while tube and worming at Elbow Ledge off Newport. My response to the line going out and the drag singing was to tighten the drag right away. The line went limp and when I reeled in the tube the hook was bent outward. I still feel pain when I think of that moment over 10 years ago!

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  7. Buddy of mine recently started helping as a deckhand with a friend of his tuna fishing. He made the mistake of leaning over the rod right at the moment the hook was pulled. He ended on up on the deck with 2 chipped teeth! I have never caught one but they’re power is awe inspiring

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    1. Ouch! 😧They are definitely one of the most powerful fish in the sea.

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  8. That’s heartbreaking! I was pretty beat / burnt after 2 and 1/2 hours, not to mention soaked from taking waves to the face as we motored in reverse.The thought of 4 hours makes me cringe.

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    1. The fish we hooked was simply too big for a spinning rod. It would of been much better to hook that fish on an 80 or 130 class conventional reel. But hey it’s hard to control which fish bites the lure!

      Congrats on your tuna from the other day. That was a great fish! You are probably going to get addicted to tuna fishing now…

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  9. Ouch! That will leave a mark. Agonizing but exhilarating experience.

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    1. Yes the rod literally did leave a mark on my legs. Seeing those tunas going airborne as they chase bait is as exhilarating as it gets!

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  10. Wow! how frustrating for you guys! 4 hours.

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    1. We were incredibly bummed out when that hook pulled, but you have to lose some to catch some I suppose.

      Reply

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