BY DANIEL LABARBARA AND BLAKE WARREN
SAN DIEGO – Big bluefin tuna have been nothing new in our Southern California waters to well below the border for a handful of years now, so much so that cow-size fish rarely even drop jaws any longer. However, super cows still very much do, let alone giant bluefin in the 400-pound class. That’s exactly what San Diego angler Floyd Sparks thought he had on his hands this past Friday after getting a couple gaffs into a monster tuna that chomped a frozen flyer under a kite, one that Sparks is now banking on being the new California state record bluefin.
This past Thursday afternoon, Sept. 9, Floyd Sparks hopped on his friend Rob Thompson’s custom-built Force Cat, Latitude 22, Sparks having known Thompson since they commercial fished together back in the day in Hawaii. Those two, accompanied by Cole Peters and one of Sparks sons’ friends, took off to the island to make some flying fish and try get some sleep before fishing the next morning.
Getting to the grounds around grey light, the team deployed the spreader bar in what Sparks figured to be too rough of conditions, but with the Hawaiian-style rigging they made use of the center rigger to keep everything up on the surface. Before they could sit back too long they were bit, and in due time they had boated a 230-pound fish. At this point the boat traffic thickened so they pulled in the bar and went looking elsewhere.
After getting a call from a friend who had hooked up, they set up upswell and started fishing the frozen flyers under the kite. They picked off another fish at around 175 pounds before things slowed down. After fishing a little longer, they started working back toward the beach where they found a zone to put the kite back up.
When the next tuna bite came, Floyd explained it was almost like it was in slow motion. The whole fish breached and they came tight. This fish would prove to be a force to be reckoned with, staying on the surface and downswell the entirety of the fight. Fishing heavy gear — a Shimano Talica 50 on a rail rod with 130-braid to a 200-pound mono topshot to a 400-pound fluoro leader — he was able to put some seriously heavy pressure on the fish.
“This fish took long runs of 300-plus yards at a time and never sounded, just stayed on the surface,” Sparks told WON. With the fish staying downswell, gaffing the monster would prove difficult, but the crew ultimately managed to stick the fish boat side.
On their way in, they took measurements of the fish and calculated it out to be around 435 pounds. Floyd called Bob Vanian from 976-BITE to get ahold of someone with a certified scale. Ending up at the San Diego Marlin Club, they were able to weigh the fish with witnesses and get a certified receipt printed with its weight: 395.4 pounds — likely a new California state record with the standing record at the time of the catch at 384 pounds.
To move forward with pursuing the official state record, they first needed to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to confirm the species and properly submit the catch as a new potential state record. After contacting good friend Sean Hastings at NOAA, they were directed to John Ugoretz, the Marine Resource Assessment Program Manager with CDFW, and had the measurements taken by his scientific aid at Sparks’ home in San Diego two days after the epic catch — Sparks had ensured to stow the fish in a Reliable swordfish killbag with lots of ice until Ugoretz could make it out to his home to take the necessary measurements. After going through the standard protocol for potential state records and measurements all checking out, Ugoretz and his aid submitted the catch to CDFW.
Now Sparks waits to see if he is officially declared the official state record holder for bluefin tuna in the state of California. An epic catch in any case, under any circumstances to be certain.