It was the catch of lifetime for Bill.
Angler Bill Busch set a new Fiji Islands all-tackle record for dogtooth tuna recently, catching this 199.3-pounder on a charter boat captained by Adrian Watt out of Kadavu Island. Here’s the story of Busch’s epic catch as told by Watt to Steven Hill.
First a geography lesson: The island nation of Fiji–actually an archipelago made up of more than 330 islands and 500 islets–lies in the south Pacific, some about 1,250 miles north of New Zealand. Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s 950,000 people live on the two largest islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.
Fiji’s third largest island, Kadavu, is completely undeveloped and unspoiled by the trappings of modern life … like roads, for example. The only way to access the island is by island-hopper flight to a little airstrip nestled in the jungle. Then it’s a boat ride to your final destination.
For angler Bill Busch, the final destination was Matava Eco-Adventure Resort on Kadavu’s southeast shore for five days of fishing aboard the resort’s 31-ft. Blackwatch game-fishing vessel “Bite Me.”
The island boasts the world’s third longest barrier reef, the Great Astrolabe Reef. Adventurous anglers can cast big surface poppers for huge Giant Trevally along 70 miles of reef.
Having spent two days battling the reef’s big GTs, we decided to rest aching arms and switch to deepwater jigging. On day three we headed out to an offshore seamount that rises from a depth of two miles to just 400 feet at its peak. Scouting for bait, we found what we were looking for: Clouds of small baitfish and hunting Almaco Jacks filled the sounder screen. We began to jig. Bill used a 325g Shimano Butterfly jig, a Shimano Trinidad reel spooled with IGFA Rated 80-lb. braid and a Zenaq jigging rod. In a few minutes we had some nice jacks on deck. Bill was busy bringing in another when his rod suddenly loaded up and he was hauled against the side of the boat. The fish stripped 100 yards of line off his reel in less than a minute before the line went slack. Bill wound in to find a small jack on his hook, completely crushed. Something big had eaten the jack and spat it out again. Definitely not a shark, maybe a marlin–but more likely our intended target, a dogtooth tuna. This looked promising.
Ten minutes later Bill hooked up again to an unstoppable freight train that headed down and out, away from the seamount. We gave chase and the long fight began. .
For 20 minutes or so the fish did as it pleased, the reel’s 35-lb. drag a minor inconvenience. Bill just hung on and kept up the huge drag.
After 30 minutes the fight stabilized, and Bill began to take a little line back … only to lose it again as the fish made more unstoppable runs.
After about 45 minutes the punishing drag began to tell on both the fish and the angler. But Bill hung in and we began to steadily take line.
At the one-hour mark we got the fish above the 150-ft. depth contour, and the resulting barotrauma knocked the last of the fight out of the huge dogtooth.
We release most dogtooth tuna, but this fish had come up from very deep and was not fit to go back. It was one of four dogtooths we caught that afternoon, and the largest ever taken on “Bite Me.”
The fish smashed the existing M-36 Fiji National Record and is now the Fiji Islands All-Tackle Record.
The tuna was just 15 kilograms (33 pounds) off the IGFA all-tackle world record.
It was the catch of lifetime for Bill