“Epic” is an overused word these days. But if any fishing story deserves to be called epic, this is the one.
Consider inserting any of the following elements into a fishing story, and you’ve got a good tale:
- A fish probably weighing in excess of 450 pounds.
- A 19.5 hour battle.
- A fully loaded boat pulled over 40 kilometers by the fish.
- Thousands of fans following a two-day fight via social media.
- The fish’s escape and honorable defeat of the anglers.
Include all five of those elements into one story and you’ve got a truly epic fish tale. That is what this story is.
On Monday morning, April 13, Team PENN International began fishing out of the island state of Tasmania, about 240 miles south of the Australian mainland. At 11:30 a.m., after 4.5 hours of fishing, they hooked into a very large bluefin tuna.
What normally would have been a fight lasting an hour or two with an average monster-size tuna went well past that. After several hours of fighting the fish, one of the crew, Adrian Morrisby, posted a Facebook update about hooking into a very big fish.
Several of his Facebook friends expressed interest, commented and began sharing the update from their friend.
Morrisby continued posting periodic updates of the battle. Things began to snowball as hundreds and then thousands of Facebook users were commenting and sharing the updates with their own friends.
Soon people all over the world were following and commenting on the fight between the giant tuna and the anglers.
Short videos were posted on the team’s Facebook page, and an outflowing of support and encouragement kept the anglers going when their arms ached and energy waned.
Morrisby recounted, “I was getting the reports back and it had me in tears there a couple of times from the support we were getting, it was amazing.”
People were following the action via the Facebook updates, like fans following the play-by-play of an old-time boxing match broadcast on radio.
The fish dragged the boat and crew more than 40 kilometers – about 25 miles – during the fight.
“It dragged us right out to the continental shelf and down below Tasman Island to Port Arthur in the end,” Morrisby said.
The tug of war with the tuna lasted through the night and into the next day, with crew members taking turns working the rod.
They conservatively estimated the bluefin to be over 200 kilos, or more than 450 pounds. The fish would have surely shattered the current Tasmanian record of 167 kilos.
At around 7 a.m. the following morning, onshore team member Josh Cumberland made the following heart-breaking update; “Well everyone that is that, absolute drama, after 19.5 hrs of fishing, an albatross has hit the line where the double meets the wind on! and fish gone.”
The comment sections filled with even more expressions of support for the Team PENN crew.
For example, Cheyne Ramsay from Kiama, New South Wales, commented, “Absolutely gutted! Can’t imagine how they feel! Amazing effort!”
Many more comments displayed similar encouragement for the team.
Here’s the shift report that Team PENN shared on their final compilation video of the fight:
Angler #1 15 y/o Jordan Chenoweth did 4.5 hours before she collapsed, would have been a Aus Record possible World record.
Angler #2 Kelly Hooch Hunt did 9 hours before he was broken and the fish was still taking 200m runs at 13 hours in.
Angler #3 Ashley Hallam stepped up for the graveyard shift and did 6 hours before handing back over to Hooch who did 40min before the line gave way.
Morrisby spoke honorably and proudly about the experience, saying of the giant tuna; “He deserved it. He fought a good battle and he won and that’s part of fishing and we were quite happy that he won.”
“To fishermen it was the battle of all battles,” he concluded. “Once you go over a couple of hours it’s an epic battle you don’t see that anywhere in the world much.”
We’re not sure if this is the first time a fishing battle has been fought before the public, in real-time via social media. But it probably garnered more attention and emotional investment from more people who followed it than any other fishing contest in history.