New England Fisherman Phil Buzby Lands a Giant Bluefin

Phil Buzby was enjoying a day out fishing.  Like all of us, you never know when that fish of a lifetime is going to swim by.  When Phil and Andrew Marshall aboard the Typhoon out of Green Harbor, MA hooked up to a 900 pound Bluefin, the fight of a lifetime was on.  Phil was nice enough to share some of the story with me. Check out his video of the catch on youtube.

big tuna on pier
Photo: Robert Hayes

Recreational guys can take a fish to market the same as commercial guys?

No, you must have the federal HMS pelagic commercial license to sell fish.  The permit is actually issued to the boat.  The boat I was on had a commercial permit.  If I was on my boat, I have a recreational permit.  The commercial  permit tuna must be >73” and gets $$, the rec permit tuna are 27-73” and gets you fresh sushi/sashimi/steaks to enjoy.


Mostly rod/reels either conventional (50/80/130 class) or spinning with drags at 20-25lbs or higher and 80-130 test line.  The reels used for comm giant fishing are usually 130 class.  There are basically 4 types of fishing:  run&gun casting to breaking schools of surface feed or even deep jigging; trolling plastic/squid bars, in NE waters squid tend to be 11-18” and up to 15 squid per 4’ bar; live line fishing using mackerel, menhaden/pogy, whiting, cod or any other ground fish you can jig up; and harpooning where you have a special boat with a tower/pulpit and throw a harpoon into a free swimming tuna, then give it a jolt of electricity to stun the fish until securing to the boat by a rope.

How far offshore?

You’ll need to look at a map of Stellwagon Bank You can fish a few 100 yds off the beach in Provincetown area of the cape in from 100-300ft of water.  You can fish anywhere along the kidney shaped area know a Stellwagon Bank.  Depths vary from 70ft to 600ft over small distances.  Fish move.  Favorite ports are Green Harbor/Scituate Harbor/Provincetown/Gloucester which are from 15-45 miles from fishing areas.  If you launch out of P’town, <1-2 mile trip.

The guys you were navigating around seemed pretty cooperative with crossed anchor and fishing lines. Is it predominately local guys fishing or do you get neighboring state anglers there?

Everyone is out there doing the same thing and would expect the same friendly response to get their stuff out of the way.  The odds on any given day are probably less than 5% of the boats hook up, more likely <1% on really busy days.  Everyone wants to see a hooked up fish IN THE BOAT!  The fishing grounds predominately are MA but you will find boats from ME, NH, RI, CT, and even NY.

What do you look for when choosing an area to target?

There a guys out there every day fishing for a living, first you try to locate the fleet, they are there for a reason.  In lieu of the fleet, look for life:  birds, bait, whales, etc.  There are also “known” travel channels, like the SWC (southwest corner of Stellwagon), NWC, NEC, etc where you just anchor up and wait for a tuna (usually a big one) to swim by.  Not uncommon for guys to sit 2-4 days in a spot.

Did you know it was a big fish from the start?

No, actually until seeing color of the fish at the end we thought we might have had a big shark.  The initial takedown was more lackadaisical characteristic of a shark not the rapid SCREAM of a reel like a big tuna.  Capt thought maybe a 400lb class fish?  We had no clue the fish was 900lbs!

Why are you pulling the line by hand while you reel?

The reel drags are set to gain line at some setting (in pounds, like 25 lbs of drag) and if the fish is pulling at greater than that line goes out.  Less than that, lines gains on the reel.  By pulling on the line you are basically pulling at greater than the reel drag permitting line to be gained.  If you set reel drag too high you risk pulling hooks out of the fish’s mouth or breaking your line.

The green stick seems to be the new craze. Your choice to chunk vs trolling or time of year/area dictates?

Green sticking is making its way north, there are green stickers out east of Chatham MA, another tuna mecca.  In the northern Cape to Gloucester area rare to see green sticks.  Historically in the north, generally smaller fish bite trolled lures/bars and bigger fish are taken on live bait 30-150 deep.  Of course there are few big on troll and few small on bait.  Decision to use bait and where is usually dictated by finding areas/depths not infiltrated by dogfish sharks, blue sharks, etc.

How long have you been going for tuna?

I think I caught my first Bluefin, about 40” in 2001.  I am primarily a rec fishermen and have in my boat caught up to a 200lb fish.  I have only attempted to commercially fished tuna about 3-4 times over the last 3 yrs being a mate on friend’s boats.  This is the first time commercial fishing hooking up something other than a big blue shark, and a BIG TUNA of a LIFETIME

Congratulations Phil!

big tuna alongside boat
Photo: Phil Buzby