Last week, Jon Rogers of Niantic, Connecticut, caught quite the surprise when he and two friends headed offshore for a routine tuna trip south of Long Island.
Joined by his brother-in-law, Paul Lavezzoli, and his fishing buddy’s brother-in-law, Jim Sullivan, a.k.a. “Slappy”, the three-man crew steamed out of port at 3:30 a.m. in Rogers’ 28-foot Regulator named The Ohana—an homage to he and his wife’s shared love for Hawaii and Maui. Their plan was to reach the tuna grounds, about 25 miles south of Long Island, by first light and troll around the temperature breaks.
As they approached their desired location, Rogers, closely eyeing his electronics, noticed that water temperatures were steadily climbing from 71 to 73 degrees. Then, as the sun began to peek above the horizon, they put out the spread—a 36-inch Chatter Lures Wingman colored black and purple—and proceeded to troll despite a lack of life in the area.
After some time spent trolling with no action, the three of them decided they would backtrack to an area they had initially overlooked where a fleet was slowly assembling. But as Jon, Paul and Jim pulled in the short starboard tracker bar, a fish took it and ran. Confused by the take, and what was clearly not a tuna, they passed around the rod to share the only action they’d had all morning. The setup—a custom Pinnacle rod paired with an Avet EX 50, spooled with 150-pound-test Tight Line hollow core and 100-pound Momoi top shot— made light work of the fish. But, as it approached their line of sight, they couldn’t identify what it was. “At first,” Rogers said, “we thought it was a large mahi due to the silver/blue coloration beneath the surface. But as it got closer, we thought maybe it was a wahoo.” They hoisted the fish into the boat, and the first thing that Rogers noted was the rancid smell, a trait he had learned was common among barracuda… clue number one that this was no wahoo.
Upon studying their catch further, Rogers noticed the lack of vertical stripes and particularly large teeth on this fish. That’s when they realized they had caught a large barracuda.
They snapped a few pictures with it, and as they headed back toward cell-phone range in search of the fleet, Rogers sent a few texts to friends sharing their catch. In Connecticut, barracuda are not listed by the DEEP under the Exotic Marine Species categories, which means this was a potential state record.
Despite their exotic catch, the crew had some unfinished business. They reached the fleet, set up to troll, and went two-for-two on 50-pound-class yellowfin tuna.
With their mission accomplished and a potential exotic state record in the boat, Jon, Jim and Paul headed back to port to have the barracuda weighed at J&B Tackle Co. in East Lyme, Connecticut. It weighed 19-pounds on the dot and measured 48 inches.
While there was no record for Great Barracuda at the time of the catch, the Connecticut Fish and Wildlife later approved the fish as a new state record in the exotic category, making it the first state record barracuda ever recorded in Connecticut. State record or not, it is a memory that will stick with the three-man crew for the rest of their lives.
Rogers made it a point to note that on this day, he was wearing his lucky hat— an OTW Offset Striper snapback that was gifted to him for Father’s Day. “Since it was gifted to me in June,” Rogers said, “this hat has brought nothing but good luck on the fishing grounds.”
Talk about a good omen. Perhaps there is another potential record-breaking barracuda in the cards for Rogers and The Ohana.