Tuna

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Captain Jim Gardner with Charles F. Holder
183 pound tuna,
Santa Catalina Island, CA

Tuna (Thunnus) comprise fifteen species across five genera, the sizes of which vary greatly. The largest of the tuna are the bluefin. Tuna of several species are fished at the California Channel Islands:

  • Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) live up to 25 years
Wikipedia: Pacific bluefin tuna
  • Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) have sickle-shaped anal and second dorsal fins
Wikipedia: Yellowfin tuna
  • Albacore (Thunnus alalonga) have long pectoral fins that reach behind the anus.

The Tuna Club of Avalon, Santa Catalina Island was officially founded on June 15, 1898 by biologist, author and sportsman, Charles Frederick Holder and friends. Its founding was prompted by Holder’s June 1, 1898 historic catch by rod and reel of a 183-pound bluefin tuna. With his catch, the public became familiar with the concept of capturing these fish with rod and reel. The Associated Press telegraphed the news around the world that none other than Charles Frederick Holder had been successful in capturing an 183 pound leaping tuna, dubbed by his angling companions as the first "very large one". Together with his boatman Jim Gardner, they battled the fish for three hours and 45 minutes, during which time their boat was towed over 10 miles in spite of Gardner's vain attempt to slow the fish by keeping his oars in the water. Holder was so inspired over his catch that he would later write, "It was this capture and the unsportsmanlike conditions of fishing the Island (handliners) which caused me to suggest the organization of the Tuna Club."


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In the News~

July 5, 1899 [LAT]: “A new tuna record. Moorhouse's [Morehous] fish weighed 250 pounds. Avalon, July 4 — the world's tuna record was broken last evening by Colonel C. P. Moorhouse of Pasadena, who landed a 251 pound tuna with rod and reel after a battle which lasted three hours and twenty minutes. The tuna was hooked off White Rock about sundown and the greater part of the battle was fought in total darkness. The movements of the tuna were exceedingly hard to follow and great care had to be exercised to keep the line from parting. Frank V. Rider captured a 175-pound tuna this morning off Long Point, after two hours and thirty-one minutes of rare sport. Schenck landed a 150-pound tuna in two hours this morning. This is Mr. Schenck's first tuna and he is now a member of the famous Tuna club.”


June 18, 1900 [LAT]: “Tuna fishing in now par excellence. Great schools of the leaping monsters are seen daily and seldom is the anxious angler compelled to come in without a strike, although he may not land his fish when hooked. Friday morning and afternoon schools of tuna played back and forth across the bay not over a hundred yards from shore, pursuing a school of mackerel which had run in. Every day from three to ten of the huge fish are brought to gaff, and the smaller ones have almost 'ceased to count.' Friday three were landed, two of which weighed 108 pounds and the other 120. The largest was caught by Franklin C. Schenck of New York, an enthusiastic fisherman, who has landed eight tuna since his arrival several weeks ago.”


June 25, 1901 [SFCall]: “Woman catches second biggest tuna killed at Catalina Island. Mrs. E. N. Dickinson [Dickerson] lands a two hundred and sixteen pound fish, after forty-five minutes of fighting. Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, June 21. — All Catalina was drawn to the beach today soon after 11 o'clock, when the launch used by Mr. and Mrs. E. N. Dickinson [sic] steamed to its moorings. The tuna flag, the emblem indicative of a catch, was flying from the masthead and Mrs. Dickinson [sic] was waiving a blood-stained handkerchief to those on shore. All wee she might, for to her lies the honor and the credit of having landed single handed the largest tuna of the last to seasons and the second in size ever caught off Avalon. The battle with this sea fish is a story in itself and shows what a game fisherwoman who is stout of heart can do with a six-foot rod and a strand no thicker than an ordinary piece of string. When put upon the scales the sea fighter weighed just 216 pounds. Mrs. E. N. Dickinson [sic] is visiting Catalina for the summer. New York City is her home, but so fascinated is her husband, Captain Dickinson [sic], with the sport of tuna catching that he visits Catalina yearly, and Mrs. Dickinson [sic] accompanied him to the coast on this visit. Both left the beach early this morning armed with implements of tuna warfare. About three miles off Avalon they rode into a school of leaping fish and before Mrs. Dickinson [sic] realized conditions her reel began to sing its merry song as a tuna took yard after yard of line. Then began a battle between the game sea fish and a gamer sportswoman. Reeling in, giving away line and the same double process over and over again for forty-five minutes, until her arms cramped from the severe physical strain, Mrs. Dickinson [sic] fought her first tuna to a successful finish. She conquered without assistance from boatman or husband. Now Mrs. Dickinson [sic] is the happiest woman on the island and tuna fishers, whether they be past masters, present devotees or professional boatmen, are all doing obesiance to the most successful fisher of them all. The Santa Catalina Island Tuna Club, many members of which are on the spot doing active service, is contemplating many important changes. At a meeting last night the suggestion was made for the club to incorporate under the laws of the State. This will be done and a handsome clubhouse will be built at Avalon for members and guests. Another suggestion which met with popular approval is in regard to the election of officers. Heretofore the presidency of the club was dependent upon prowess with the rod allied with chance. The member who secured the biggest catch of the season — May 1 to October 1 — was by virtue of his deed the president for the ensuing year. Election will be the determining method under the new order of things. As the members of the Tuna club come from all parts of the world, proxies or mail ballots will be allowed. Fishing at Avalon: General John Barrett, Thomas Manning, Philadelphia; Colonel R. A. Eddy, F. S. Schenck, Brooklyn; C. C. Paine, Cleveland; Captain W. H. Burnham, Orange; F. V. Rider, New York; W. A. Baldwin, Buffalo; N. F. Wilshire, C. F. Holder, Pasadena; Joseph Chambers, Cincinatti; Macomb G. Foster, New York; C. P. Morehous, Pasadena; E. N. Dickinson [sic], New York; D. C. Pixley, Orange; O. O. Orr, Avalon; J. Francis, Los Angeles; W. J. Landers and M. J. Connell.”


August 24, 1904 [SBMP]: “That tuna, the great game fish that infests the waters about Santa Catalina Island, are plentiful in this channel was demonstrated Monday when Reverend Warren D. More and a party of friends encountered a large school of these monsters a short distance beyond the kelp line... Captain Gourley, who had the party out, reports that tuna can be seen in the channel during most of the summer months.”


September 22, 1904 [SBMP]: “Flying fish have been seen in large numbers lately, and it is the only bait that tempts the big tuna...”


September 22, 1904 [SBMP]: “Flying fish have been seen in large numbers lately, and it is the only bait that tempts the big tuna...”


November 20, 1904 [SBMP]: “Tuna caught in the channel. The fact that large tuna can be caught in the channel canue of his deed the president for the ensuing year. Election will be the determining method under the new order of things. As the members of the Tuna Club come from all parts of the world, proxies or mail ballots will be allowed. At present the following members are fishing at Avalon: General John Barrett, Thomas Manning, Philadelphia; Colonel R. A. Eddy, F. S. Schenck, Brooklyn; C. C. Paine, Cleveland; Captain W. H. Burnham, Orange; F. V. Rider, New York; W. A. Baldwin, Buffalo; N. F. Wilshire, C. F. Holder, Pasadena; Joseph Chambers, Cincinatti; Macomb G. Foster, New York; C. P. Morehous, Pasadena; E. N. Dickinson [sic], New York; D. C. Pixley, Orange; O. O. Orr, Avalon; J. Francis, Los Angeles; W. J. Landers and M. J. Connell.”


August 24, 1904 [SBMP]: “That tuna, the great game fish that infests the waters about Santa Catalina Island, are plentiful in this channel was demonstrated Monday when Reverend Warren D. More and a party of friends encountered a large school of these monsters a short distance beyond the kelp line... Captain Gourley, who had the party out, reports that tuna can be seen in the channel during most of the summer months.”


September 22, 1904 [SBMP]: “Flying fish have been seen in large numbers lately, and it is the only bait that tempts the big tuna...”


November 20, 1904 [SBMP]: “Tuna caught in the channel. The fact that large tuna can be caught in the channel can no longer be disputed. Yesterday Jesse L. Hendricks, captain of the Potter boat Frances, brought in a regulation tuna, weighing 117 pounds…”


June 14, 1905 [SBMP]: “There is no need of confining tuna fishing to the waters of Catalina. The same fish may be found in the Santa Barbara channel, and the one reason they have not been caught here is that the fishermen have not understood the methods of their capture. Captain Merry of the Vishnu contributes the following facts in connection with the sport... flying fish necessary for bait...”


October 24, 1908 [SBMP]: “Tuna fishing, a sport that has made Catalina Island famous, is the title of a picture taken in Sicily and which will be shown at La Petite Theatre tonight.”


July 21, 1909 [LAH]: “Avalon, July 20. Flying signals of distress, and their launch, Cornell, half full of water, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Robinson of the Boston department store were picked up off the west end of San Clemente Island by Captain George Romans of the launch Ramona early this morning. On board the sinking launch with Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were C. H. Knapp of Seabreeze, Florida, and H. C. Davidson of Los Angeles. A large hole had been made in the launch Cornell as it had passed over a sunken reef. At the time of the mishap Mr. Robinson was steering the boat, while Captain Cornell was attending to some minor details of the engine room. The Cornell was abandoned and the party arrived safely at Avalon from Clemente late this evening. They are now quartered at the Metropole. Three days ago Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, with Mr. Davidson and Mr. Knapp as their guests, chartered the launch Cornell for a trip to Clemente. They were in search of bluefin tuna. Owing to the fact that Mr. Robinson was steering against the sun, he had not seen the reef over which the launch passed. The boat will probably be a total wreck. An effort will be made to float it if possible tomorrow. The Cornell was valued at $3000 and would probably weigh five tons. During the trip the party caught several varieties of large fish, including black sea bass, yellowtail and albacore.”


August 31, 1909 [SBI]: “Guests at the Potter Hotel are given convincing evidence that leaping tuna abound in the Santa Barbara channel by a photograph of the three monster game fish caught by S. Larco’s fishermen last week. The card is tacked to a bulletin board near the hotel desk, and on the board in large letters is written, ‘Caught in Santa Barbara channel August 23.’ The sign has already attracted much attention.”


September 19, 1909 [LAH]: “Gifford Pinchot, United States forester, yesterday landed at San Clemente Island a swordfish weighing 180 pounds and measuring seven feet nine inches in length. Pinchot plated the monster for more than two hours from the launch Juanita, on standard tuna club tackle. The fish was taken to Avalon for the purpose of being mounted and recorded. Despairing of catching tuna at San Clemente Island the Pinchot party will put in the early part of the week angling for the gameyer is one of the tenders of the fleet of 300 fishing boats now off the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The fleet is following the great schools of albacore north along the coast.”


August 22, 1917 [SBDN]: “Threatening loss of life to the eight Japanese aboard, the fishing boat Summiyoshi, owned by the Halfhill Tuna Packing Company of Long Beach and on its way to Santa Cruz Island, went ashore late Monday at the mouth of the Santa Clara River… The boat was on its way to Santa Cruz where they fish for tuna and albacore…”


May 26, 1926 [TI/Avalon]: “A report from San Clemente Island Monday, stated that several schools of bluefin tuna had been seen near China Point, San Clemente Island.”


July 27, 1929 [SDET]: “Los Angeles — Two tuna weighing more than 100 pounds each, the largest caught this season, have been hooked off San Clemente Island. Mrs. George Martin, of Beverly Hills, landed the largest, a 109-pound fish, after George C. Thomas, also of Beverly Hills, hooked one weighing 104-1/2 pounds.”