While a majority of southern New England anxiously waits for albie season to ramp up, on Thursday, August 17th, Henry Simonds of Connecticut reeled in a surprising catch off the coast of Rhode Island. He was fishing around the Block Island wind farm with Captain David Hochman of Spear-It Charters when they received a knock-down, which, unbeknownst to them at the time, would become a contender for the new state record false albacore.
Simonds—who spends his time freediving the shallows on the north shore of Massachusetts—began spearfishing with Hochman five years ago and has been doing it ever since. According to Simonds, their initial game plan was to spearfish some yellowfin in the canyons on an overnight trip 40 to 50 miles south of Block Island. But, after suiting up and making a few dives, their group hadn’t seen a single fish. In an effort to put some tuna in the boat, Simonds said that their dive trip became a trolling trip, which ended up boating the crew 8 yellowfin tuna.
According to Hochman, a friend of his had just caught a 100-pound bluefin around the Block Island wind farm— an easy pit-stop for the homebound crew. Prepared to round out their box of yellowfin, Hochman and his mate set out a Sterling Tackle side tracker with purple 9-inch bulb squids and a zucchini stinger. Not long after they started to troll around the wind farm, the drag on their Penn International 80W (spooled with 150-pound monofilament) began to sing.
Hochman—a longtime commercial tuna fisherman who has has spent his life spearfishing—began Spear-It Charters 15 years ago with guided dive trips. Within the past 10 years, he started additionally offering rod-and-reel charters, chasing the same fish from a new perspective to avoid monotony. He frequently targets false albacore via both methods to use them for bait on his shark charters, but this albie would be larger than any he has encountered in 15 years of guiding. Thinking they hooked a bluefin, Simonds jumped on the rod, tightened the drag and put some pressure on the fish.
Hochman described the fight as being more powerful than a football bluefin tuna. “Pound for pound, albies fight harder than bluefin of similar size,” said Hochman. “I’ve caught 50-pound bluefin that didn’t have the power of this near 20-pound albie.” After what was estimated to be a 10- to 15-minute fight due to the initial run it took on light drag, Hochman said they were all surprised to see an albie on the other end of the gaff. “Even on an 80-wide, the fish was so heavy,” said Simonds. “And you would think such a heavy setup would cut down the fight time.” According to the skipper, they were bringing in 70-pound yellowfin in the same amount of time that it took to land this fish which, combined with it’s size, is why they concurred this could be a new state record false albacore.
Not one for fanfare, Simonds sounded very humbled by the potential state-record holder status. He doesn’t spend much time chasing albies on light spinning gear as so many crazed inshore anglers do from Cape Cod to New Jersey each year. Moreover, he certainly never anticipated catching a false albacore of this caliber while trolling for tuna. “There wasn’t a big school of them or anything, this fish kind of came out of nowhere and it just happened to be my turn on the rod,” Simonds said.
Upon reaching cell phone range, Simonds researched what he needed to do to submit the catch to the state of Rhode Island. The Connecticut native brought his catch to Snug Harbor Marina in Wakefield, where it weighed in at 19.56 pounds and measured 36 inches long.
With the appropriate paperwork submitted and the measurements logged and dated, all that’s left to do is wait to hear back from the state. If the record is approved, it should be officially announced sometime in the spring.
To commemorate his catch, Simonds left the albie with well-known gyotaku artist, Joe Higgins of Fished Impressions (a.k.a. Joe’s Fresh Fish Prints), in Salem, MA.
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In September of 2022, T. Craig of The Bronx, New York, caught a 16.2-pound, 32-inch false albacore to claim the record. However, if certified, Henry Simonds’ fish will topple the previous state record false albacore in Rhode Island by over 3 pounds and 4 inches.
More Pending State-Records of 2023:
- Brian Boyt’s 7-pound, 13-ounce Tautog in Maine
- Dominic and Joseph Vricella’s 67-Pound King Mackerel in New Jersey