A lone angler, far offshore. A giant fish, bigger than anything he’d ever hooked. And sharks. No, this isn’t the setting for “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s the all-too-real situation 61-year-old Andrew Card found himself in earlier this month when, fishing alone some 30 miles off the coast of Bermuda, Card hooked an incredible 1,000 pound bluefin tuna, only to see his catch ravaged by sharks before he could boat it. When Card managed to finally get the giant fish in the boat, it still weighed a scale-bottoming 987 pounds. The massive fish beat the old Bermuda record of 782 lbs., which happened to be caught by…Andrew Card. Here’s how he did it.
When Andrew Card, 61, set out from the dock at Bermuda’s Spanish Point Boat Club early on the morning of Feb. 1, the lifelong Bermuda resident and well-known local angler was merely hoping to catch a few grouper or wahoo to sell to the local markets. Card has fishing in his blood. His brother runs a fishing charter operation and Card himself was a former captain. “I was a charter captain for 18 years,” says Card. “But now I’m just a commercial fisherman, but I use only rods and reels, no nets or longlines or anything like that.”
Most days Card fishes alone on his 26-foot boat, targeting smaller species that he sells to local markets and restaurants. Bluefin tuna, however, is not one of those species. “Bluefin really aren’t targeted here at all,” says Card. “There have only been three bluefin taken on rod-and-reel here.” One of those fish, which Card caught back in the ’80s, is the current Bermuda record at 782 pounds.
Card says despite the rarity of big bluefin in Bermuda’s waters, he’s already had run-ins with two massive bluefin just this year prior to this fish, both of which broke off. “One of them I fought for nine hours before it broke off.” Card couldn’t say whether the fish that broke off were larger than the one he caught, “but they were both pretty big.”
The problem with trying to land giant bluefin, says Card, is that he’s simply not set up to handle such large fish. “I use 50-wide reels and 80 lb. line on short stand-up rods, and the fish we catch are generally going to be wahoo, grouper, yellowfin, that kind of thing.”
On the morning of Feb. 1, Card was fishing in about 180 feet of water some 30 miles offshore. “I was using a Shimano Triton 50-wide, 80 lb. line and I was trolling a Bomber Certified Depth Crankbait that I had tuned and modified myself. It was the very first time in the water for both the line on the reel and the crankbait,” Card says.
That’s when the big fish hit. “I knew right away it was a big tuna,” says Card. “It peeled off three or four hundred yards of line with no hint of slowing down.” He fought the fish for quite some time, not knowing when, how, or if he’d be able to get the fish boatside. All he knew was that he was alone, and attached to the biggest thing he’d ever hooked with a rod. “It was definitely an Old Man and the Sea sort of moment,” jokes Card. “I was wondering how I’d get it in the boat, if things got that far along.”
And that’s when the Hemingway parallels got even eerier. “He was down deep near the bottom, and then he just stopped fighting,” says Card. “I didn’t know it at the time, but the sharks had gotten to him.”
Now Card was faced with how to hoist a now-dead 1,000-pound tuna up from the depths on 80 lb. line before the sharks completely ravaged it. “I just slowly cranked it up without putting too much pressure on it,” says Card. “It was actually fairly easy. At the time I didn’t know what had happened with the sharks. I just knew that this fish had stopped fighting and I needed to get him up boatside as quick as I could.”
Eventually Card managed to bring the tuna up to the surface, and that’s when he discovered why the fish had stopped fighting. Sharks had ripped huge chunks out of the bluefin’s tail, killing it. The sharks were gone, for the moment, but Card knew he had to get the fish in the boat quickly, before they returned.
One glance at the massive fish told Card there was no way he was getting it through his boat’s tuna door. It simply wouldn’t fit. Card radioed a nearby boat for help. Together, he and the crew from the other boat managed to get the fish loaded onto the other boat before the sharks returned.
Exhausted, Card turned his boat toward home, but in the meantime, word of the catch had spread, and there was a crowd waiting when the boats came motoring into the docks.
Getting the fish unloaded from the boat required the use of a crane, and when it was placed on the scales, the 10-foot-long fish took the needle to an astounding 987 pounds, even with the meat taken by sharks.
Card says when he hooked it, he had no idea the fish would end up being that large. “It was a fluke, really. I’m just not geared up to catch these things, but I’m certainly happy I did.”
But there was little time to admire the massive catch. After it was transferred to Card’s boat, he and his brother began the laborious process of turning almost a 1,000 pounds of bluefin into fillets.
So what to do with all that tuna? Card ended up selling all of it to local markets and restaurants there on Bermuda. “It didn’t fetch big bucks or anything,” says Card, “but I was happy with what I got for it.”
When asked if he thinks he might like to get a three-peat on the largest bluefin ever taken in Bermuda waters, Card says, “Who knows? You never know what you’re going to hook. That’s the beauty of it.”
_A lone angler, far offshore. A giant fish, bigger than anything he’d ever hooked. And sharks. No, this isn’t the setting for “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s the all-too-real situation 61-year-old Andrew Card found himself in earlier this month when, fishing alone some 30 miles off the coast of Bermuda, Card hooked an incredible 1,000 pound bluefin tuna, only to see his catch ravaged by sharks before he could boat it.
When Card managed to finally get the giant fish in the boat, it still weighed a scale-bottoming 987 pounds. The massive fish beat the old Bermuda record of 782 lbs., which happened to be caught by…Andrew Card. Here’s how he did it._