Trophy New Jersey Bluefin

Trophy New Jersey Bluefin
Capt. Jim Peters and crew with bluefin tuna
Capt. Jim Peters and crew with pose with the giant bluefin tuna they caught off the coast of New Jersey.
Courtesy Capt. Jim Peters

When Capt. Jim Peters set out on the morning of April 27, there were five men on his boat, and that was a good thing. It would take all five of them to wrestle aboard the giant bluefin tuna they would catch that afternoon, a tuna twice as big as any Peters had caught before.

This was the maiden voyage of 2024 for the Reel Time, Peters’ 32-foot Century center console. The crew was Mariusz Zach, Michal Kubisiak, Jordan Cook, and Randy Ciprich. They left Morgan Marina in Parlin, New Jersey, at 6 a.m., and rounded Sandy Hook, heading over the Sea Girt reef toward the Seaside lumps.

Trolling for Bluefins

They found lots of porpoise but no tuna, so the Reel Time turned north. A bit south and east of Manasquan Inlet, with four lines trolling ballyhoo, the crew connected with a truly huge giant bluefin. “The reel started screaming and it was game on from there,” Peters recalled. “This thing was unbelievable. Just the sheer enormity, you have no idea—the pictures do not do that fish justice.”

Peters was fishing a CMS custom rod, a Shimano Tiagra 80 wide reel spooled with 200-pound braid and a 180-pound top shot to a swivel with 180-pound fluorocarbon leader. The fight took four hours, with the crew taking turns on the rod. When at last the fish was subdued, the crew faced the next challenge: getting an 800-pound tuna into the boat. “There was a bunch of emotions going on,” Peters said. “We got a rope around it, bled it out, then we said, ‘How are we getting this big boy in?’”

The boat had a tuna door in the transom. Peters didn’t just open it—he removed it, unscrewing the hinges with a screw gun, to gain every inch of space. The boat did not have a winch, so with a rope through the tuna’s gill and some help from pitching waves, the intrepid crew began to drag the fish aboard.

“We put the rope around my T-top, made it tight, and had the guys jumping on the rope, and that was working an inch at a time,” Peters said. With the hauling crew and the huge tuna all on the starboard side of the boat, Peters had to be careful to keep the Reel Time pointing into the waves.

By now it was close to 6 p.m. and the next challenge was finding a marina with a scale. Phone calls to marinas found that most were closed. “I’ve got a trophy fish here and I got nobody to weigh it?” Peters recalled thinking. “This is horrible!”

scale with weight of giant bluefin tuna displayed
After being bled and having a gill plate removed, the fish still weighed 772 pounds.
Courtesy Capt. Jim Peters

A friend suggested Brielle Yacht Club Marina inside Manasquan Inlet, and Peters drove in with the tuna’s tail dangling from the stern. On the scale, the giant bluefin weighed 772 pounds, missing one gill plate and its guts and blood. Peters believes the intact fish weighed 825 pounds—short of New Jersey’s 1,030-pound record, set in 1981, but likely the third-largest in state history. The fish measured 112 inches from tip to tail fork.

The Reel Time’s fish was the second 700-pound-plus bluefin in a week. Seven days earlier, Capt. Kevin Goldberg and mate Mike Resetar boated a 718-pounder less than 20 miles away, reports. Goldberg and Resetar couldn’t even get their tuna through their tuna door, so they lashed it to the side of their center console and motored in to weigh the fish, also at Brielle Yacht Club Marina.

As it turned out, Peters caught his tuna with just days left in the trophy season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed the recreational season for bluefin on May 2 after reported landings reached the 2.3-metric ton quota. “This is such a great fishery,” Peters said. “We’re blessed to have it.”

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