HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KRON) — Recreational fishermen are swapping big fish stories this week thanks to a rare occurrence of Pacific bluefin tuna migrating close to shore. The enormous fish usually stay far out in the open ocean, but recently they have been swimming less than 10 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay.
Catching a big bluefin tuna is considered the pinnacle of west coast sport fishing, fisherman Charlie Claycomb said.
“To catch one of these fish is an adventure, and they are extremely delicious. The sashimi I’ve been eating is better than anything I’ve ever had,” Claycomb said.
“They are usually way out there, off the canyons. 30, 40, 50 miles,” Claycomb said. But this August, “They came right into Deep Reef, (10 miles from Pillar Point Harbor) and everybody was just shocked because it was so close.”
Reeling one into a tiny recreational boat is an exhausting endeavor that can take more than five hours.
“They are really hard fish to target. You have to have all the right gear. You have to be ready for a really tough fight, especially for ones this size,” Claycomb said.
Bluefins are powerful swimmers built for endurance and speed.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium wrote, “A bluefin tuna is a remarkable athlete. This highly migratory fish can travel thousands of miles at a stretch, crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach spawning grounds in as little as fifty-five days. It will travel vast distances at amazing speeds thanks to some unique adaptations. A tuna’s body is almost perfectly streamlined to reduce drag around its fins.”
Fisherman Ronnie Clarke waged tug-of-war battles with three bluefin tuna on three separate fishing trips before he finally hauled one into his boat. Clarke said one fish weighing 300 pounds recently got away after a three-hour long battle.
“That was a heartbreaker,” he said.
A sweet victory happened last week while Clarke and his father were on a small boat 16 miles out at sea from Half Moon Bay. The tuna Clarke successfully caught was 67 inches long and weighed 177 pounds.
Anglers reported seeing impressive schools of anchovies swimming near Half Moon Bay. The anchovies provide a feast for many species, and are likely the reason why the bluefin tuna ventured so close to shore.
“The water is full of food. The whole ecosystem is doing really well. It’s great to see. There are whales all over the place out there. A sea of life,” Claycomb said.
NOAA Fisheries public affairs officer Michael Milstein said water temperatures off Central California’s coast have been warm this summer.
“The bluefin are likely closer to shore because the temperatures are warm and their prey,” Milstein said.
Pacific bluefin tuna migrate thousands of miles across the ocean, ranging from San Diego to Mexico to Hawaii. While not classified as “endangered,” Pacific bluefin population levels are lower than target-levels because of overfishing by commercial boats, NOAA said.