Carolyn's World Record Bigeye Tuna

   In the annals of Southern California sportfishing the name of Carolyn Morris is not one that conjures up visions of epic battles with giant fish or innovations in the sport. However, a search of the IGFA records will reveal that for the last 24 years Mrs. Morris has occupied a slot in the record book reserved for women anglers for Pacific Bigeye Tuna in the 30 lb. class.

Raised in San Diego, Carolyn’s introduction into the sport of “big game” fishing began by Albacoring on the old “SEARCHER” (now “CONQUEST”). Accompanying a regular charter group and learning the sport from the likes of Don Sansome and Frank LoPreste, her first exposure was in fighting the battle of the bait tank. Armed with an aquarium dip net she squeamishly learned how to pick out the choice anchovies and reluctantly managed to impale them on the point of a bait hook. Of course, by the time she got the bait into the water it was usually time for “watch your lines!” as the boat pulled away from one stop after another. However, over the next few years, she began to get the hang of it and even learned to step back when someone shouted: “coming through.”

Meanwhile, there were the regular outings on the family boat, “KEN-DAN,” with plenty of sack time (i.e. trolling) while looking for the really “big game” Marlin and Swordfish. And so it was on Aug. 17, 1980 that she found herself working the waters off La Jolla along with yours truly, son, Daniel (age 12), and our 2 months short of 2 year old daughter, Melody. Several Marlin had been caught in those waters over the week-end and most of the San Diego fleet was there. About 1 PM the port outrigger snapped and the Dorado clone on a 30 pound rig was pulled off by a hungry Marlin. Off it went, put on a show, and promptly threw the lure.

About 10 minutes after re-deploying the lines, the same lure was jerked off the same port ‘rigger and away went the line. And away went more line without so much as a boil let alone the sight of a grayhounding “striper.” We rapidly managed to bring in the other lines, get Carolyn comfortably settled into a portable fighting chair and began the task of following the – fish? whatever it was. No sight of the prey and no indication of what we were up against. The minutes flew by – one hour, 2 hours and still no sign of the opposition. By then we were questioning the possibility of maybe a foul hooked marlin or possibly even a swordie.

We, the crew, were kept busy cooling our angler down, plying her with energy in the form of fresh fruit and cold drinks, encouraging her, and, not the least, also catering to the needs of a 22 month old little girl. Fortunately she slept part of the time, but most of the time we kept her in the cabin munching on crackers watching her mother going through the continued ordeal of pumping and winding (no, not bump and grind). In fact, 12 year old Daniel and I took turns in catering to the young lady’s needs and running the boat.

During the third hour of the ordeal as the afternoon wore on we noticed that the surrounding fleet was thinning out and by the end of the fourth hour we were all alone. Entering the fifth hour we began to see some color down there and several minutes later were amazed to see a rather large tuna slowly circling and alternately trying to avoid visiting sharks. We had our angler back off the drag and let the fish run off getting away from those toothy critters before we then reclaimed the lost line.

Finally, after 4 ½ hours with one exhausted angler, the (equally exhausted) fish came to the surface allowing us to sink a gaff and slide it up onto the step. And then back to the Marlin Club in the evening darkness for the weighing ceremony. 136 ½ pounds! With that, Nick Pattengill, the Club photographer, suggested we look at the record book and lo and behold, we had surpassed the standing IGFA record. We took the usual photos and then came the usual question: was this a Bigeye or a Yellowfin? There had been no large tuna brought in up until that point and we suspected that this was a Bigeye, since the Yellowfin usually don’t run that large in these waters. The answer: the liver. A little surgery, removing that striped organ, and the following morning we brought it over to the Tuna Commission office in La Jolla where the scientists identified our catch as a Bigeye. Therefore, off went the leader, a section of line and the “official” picture to I.G.F.A. headquarters along with a World Record claim. Several weeks later we received the official notification that our angler was now the holder of the Record for Pacific Bigeye Tuna in the 30 pound line class. That was 1980 and she still holds the record. Actually, the weight for the 20 pound class exceeds her catch, but we have settled for the 30 pound record. Oddly enough, the thought of pulling on another one of these muscular creatures just doesn’t appeal to our record holder and she’d just as soon fight a marlin or two. As long, of course, (not being a proponent of the Marsha Bierman style of stand-up fishing) there is a chair available. Nevertheless, truly, this was one special day – a most memorable catch.