The Glory Days of the Giant Scarborough "Tunny"

These days, bluefin tuna fishing in the U.S. is heavily regulated, and rightfully so. Commercial fishing across the globe is hurting stocks, and any sportfishing boat that lands a bluefin over 500 pounds is likely to make local news at least. Though true giants do still exist, there are relatively few that target them, and fewer that target them without commercial sale permits, as the price for bluefin is astronomical. A time when giants were as plentiful, seemingly easy to catch, and essentially worth very little on the market as they were in 1930s Scarborough is hard to imagine. Book Caption: Unloading tunny at Scarborough Harbour - crowd of onlookers gather to marvel at this new sight on their shores.
While one might envision bamboo fly rods and sparse flies as being standard British tackle in the 30s, companies like Hardy were producing big-game tackle in the U.K. that rivals designs still sold today by U.S. companies such as Braid and AFTCO. Book Caption: Col. E.T. Peel's Hardy tunny harness, which was considered by Peel, the man who now held the world tunny record in 1932, to be his most valuable piece of kit.
Book Caption:**** Aboard the St. George - Sir Francis Russell (left) ships biologist taking measurements and Colonel E.T. Peel (right) wearing the white trilby.
Book Caption: Aboard the St. George _- Colonel E.T. Peel, (second from left).
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Book Caption: On August 20th, 1949, a gaunt Fred Taylor with a 694lb. tunny. Conditions perfect- landed in forty-five minutes.
Notice how the rod Laughton is using essential mimics an over-sized fly rod, with the reel seated on the underside of the rod and guides on the underside of the rod. Book Caption: Mr. Tom Laughton, brother of the famous actor Charles Laughton, is seen here playing a tunny in 1933.
Hardy is still a major player in the fly tackle market, but has been out of the offshore tackle game for decades. Notice the similarities in the design of this Hardy tuna reel to a fly reel. These reels fetch incredibly high prices at auction. Book Caption:_ Hardy records show__ that only five of these extra-wide Fortunas were produced._
When live mackerel and herring were scarce off Scarborough, this lure could be counted on to connect. The resemblance of this lure to a modern Clark Spoon is uncanny. Book Caption: From Colonel E.T. Peels' tunny outfit. "Scaraboro" The Silver Herring Tunny bait. Length 9 inches. A flat brilliantly painted spinning bait, used off Scarborough representing a herring, the food choice for the tunny. These lures were available Hardy's between 1937 up to 1950.
Another classic tuna reel by Allcock. This designed shows early glimpses of a modern offshore reel design. Book Caption: Allcock's Tunny Reel made under license from Mitchell Henry and appeared in Allcock's catalogue 1937
As if to drive the point home that Japanese buyers were not scrambling to pay buckets of cash for sushi-grade bluefin in the 1930s, here we see a huge bluefin about to be canned. Book Caption: The first fish to be canned in [the U.K.], caught by Tom Sopwith in 1933. The scene is the factory of British Fish Canners Ltd, Leeds.

These photos are a small sampling from author Mark Ross's 390-page book "The Glory Days of the Giant Scarborough Tunny." Publsihed in the U.K., this gorgeous hard-bound book chronicles the rise and fall of the giant bluefin tuna fishery that occured off Scarborough on England's east coast. This explosion of giant fish in the North Sea coincided with massive herring runs, and offered a new sport for the affluent during the Great Depression, as well as a reason for tackle companies to begin perfecting big-game fishing gear. This fishery ran strong from the 1930s through the early 1950s, spawning the famous Scarborough Tunny Club. Sadly, due to both a mixture of overfishing and the slow decline of herring populations, these bluefin do not frequent the waters off Scarborough as they did during the "glory days." To learn more about the book, or order a copy from across the big pond, click here.