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State Record Bigeye Tuna Bested

For Immediate Release
October 17, 2013

State Record Bigeye Tuna Bested

State Record Bigeye Tuna caught by Vic Gaspeny, of Tavernier

A 311-pound bigeye tuna, caught on September 25th by Vic Gaspeny, of Tavernier, FL, has been certified as the new Virginia State Record by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Gaspeny’s catch surpasses the existing record of 285 pounds and 12 ounces, caught 10 years earlier in August 2003 by Melvin Bray of Dumfries, VA. 

Gaspeny made his record-setting catch off Virginia Beach, at the Norfolk Canyon, while fishing with Captain Justin Wilson aboard the charter vessel Just Right. Gaspeny, a well respected light tackle fishing guide and outdoor writer, operates out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, FL, where he is best known for his ability to put clients on tarpon. Gaspeny also helped pioneer “day dropping” for swordfish off the Florida coast and in the process caught his 200th swordfish last July. 

Gaspeny spent many of his early years in Tidewater, graduated from Cox High School and Old Dominion University and returns each year for a month-long fishing vacation to visit family and friends.  It was a group of friends that left the dock early Wednesday, September 25, loaded with a full tank of fuel and 800 pounds of ice aboard Justin Wilson’s custom-rigged 34-foot Judge.  Plan A was to day-drop for swordfish but it has been an off the chart year for Citation-sized bigeye tuna, arguably the best ever.  So when the group received a call that a hot daybreak bite of bigeye tuna was going on the temptation was too great to resist.  After arriving lines had hardly been set when all six went off and mayhem ensued.  Two 50-pound class yellowfin were rather quickly landed but the other four fish appeared much bigger.  One of those four fish came unbuttoned but the other three, all 200-pound class bigeye tuna, were landed.  With over 600 pounds of tuna onboard the group decided it was time to move on to day-dropping for swordfish.  The swordfish proved more elusive and, as the early morning adrenaline rush provided by the tuna ebbed, radio talk indicated the bigeye tuna bite was heating back up.  The decision was made to pull up the deepbaits, reset the rods for trolling and return to the area where the tuna were caught earlier in the day.

It was nearly sunset when the huge bigeye hit a trolled ballyhoo rigged on a blue and white skirt attached to a heavy leader.  Gaspeny was using a custom built J&B rod mated to a 50W Shimano TLD reel and loaded with 80-pound test Suffix monofilament line.  He quickly donned a fighting harness and settled in for an extended battle.  The tuna was finally gaffed boatside at 9:15 PM.  There was a brief discussion among the captain and crew whether to stay and fish through the night for swordfish.  “Reality set in,” according to Captain Wilson, “we were out of space and ice,” so the group headed in.  It was a little before midnight as the Just Right pulled up to the docks at Long Bay Pointe Marina.  The official weight of the bigeye would not be determined until the next day but it appeared their fish would easily exceed the current state record for bigeye tuna of 285 pounds and 12 ounces.  Thursday morning the group’s suspicion was confirmed by Virginia’s Saltwater Fishing Tournament Director Lewis Gillingham.

“With the phenomenal bigeye tuna fishery we had off the Virginia coast this year I would have been really disappointed if the bigeye state record had not been broken,” Gillingham said.  Rumors of fish over the existing state record had circulated but, for one reason or another, they were never submitted for state record consideration.  Anglers fishing with Captain Wilson aboard the Just Right weighed a bigeye of nearly 300 pounds earlier in the month but it was not submitted for consideration because more than one angler fought the fish during the 4-1/2 hour battle.

The 311-pound record-setting bigeye tuna measured 79-1/2 inches in total length, 71-1/2 inches straight line fork length and sported an impressive 57-inch girth.  The tuna was weighed and registered at Long Bay Pointe Marina.  The prior state record of 285 pounds and 12 ounces was also caught off Virginia Beach, at the Norfolk Canyon, by Melvin Bray of Dumfries, VA on August 11, 2003. 

For more information, contact Lewis S. Gillingham, Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, 2600 Washington Avenue Third Floor; Newport News, VA, 23607, (757) 491-5160,

Bigeye Tuna State Record Bested Sept 25, 2013

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