Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Huge fish a record for NZ woman

Donna Pascoe and the fish that fought hard.
Donna Pascoe and the fish that fought hard.

No woman in New Zealand has caught a bigger fish than the giant Pacific bluefin tuna that Aucklander Donna Pascoe reeled in this week after an epic four-hour battle - and she may have also landed herself a world record.

Pascoe, an experienced angler who runs a fishing charter business, hooked the 411kg fish from her 17m boat Gladiator near the Three Kings Islands off Cape Reinga on Wednesday.

The sea was rough and the wind strong when her reel started shedding line about 9am.

"I went and grabbed the rod and jumped into the chair," she told the Herald on Sunday. "We had no idea what it was because it never jumped or showed its face. We thought it could have been a massive blue or black marlin ... but it never crossed our minds that it could be a huge bluefin tuna."

The fish fought hard and took more line with every grind of the reel, but Pascoe was equal to it.

"It was a very stubborn fish but I'm stubborn as well," she said.

After three exhausting hours a shout came from skipper Scott Sutherland on the fly bridge. "Tuna. World record."

"He knew instantly," Pascoe said. "But the fish had a mind of its own and it went down again. I had to play it some more and it was another hour until we managed to get it up and get a rope around it."

Pascoe and the four men on the boat were unable to get the half-tonne fish on board and had to use the anchor winch to lift it. "Once we got it on board everybody's mouths dropped open. It was absolutely amazing," she said.

It had taken exactly 4 hours and 11 minutes to land the 411kg fish.

They took it to the Houhora Big Game & Sports Fishing Club where it was weighed, photographed and put on ice.

The catch will have to be certified by the International Game Fish Association before Pascoe can claim the world record. This could take several months.

The present world record is a 335kg fish also caught off Northland.

According to New Zealand Sport Fishing Council records, the tuna would be the biggest fish to be caught in New Zealand by a woman.

Pascoe was aware of the huge prices that bluefin can fetch in Japan - a comparatively small 221kg bluefin recently fetched $2.2 million at auction - but because it wasn't caught on a commercial vessel she was unable to sell it.

Instead she would have it mounted by a taxidermist and give it to the Houhora Big Game & Sports Fishing Club.

Charles Hufflett, a director of New Zealand's biggest supplier of bluefin, Solander Fisheries, said depending on its fat content, the fish could sell for up to $82 a kg. At that price, the 411kg fish would fetch $33,700.

- APNZ

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