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Feature Article: Queen Victoria

‘Queen’ Victoria and her capture

Victoria Jones’ 372-pound super cow yellowfin

By Victoria Jones/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 24, 2020

SAN DIEGO — Victoria Jones weighs 120 pounds soaking wet. She’s been fishing with her husband Herman for 20 years as they worked their way together up to ultra long range trips for brawny yellowfin. This lady, known around the fleet as Queen Victoria, caught her first cow yellowfin aboard the Qualifier 105 in 2005 during a trip to the Lower Banks.

On Dec. 10, 2019 while aboard the Red Rooster III, the Queen caught a stupendous 372-pound yellowfin, a tremendous fish for anyone. At the end of the trip, the fish scaled at an official weight of 367.8 pounds.


How does she do it? Jones says it’s in the technique and today’s fine tackle that’s easy to match to an individual angler. Although she’s already accomplished feats most will only dream of, the Queen is far from done. She wants a 400 pounder, and to break onto the list of the Top 10 San Diego Sportboat Catches of all time. Her new personal best just missed the cut. Here’s her account of the catch. — Eds.


queenvictoria
‘QUEEN’ VICTORIA JONES, left, Red Rooster III deckhand Jason Lind, center, and deck boss Andrew Cates, right, with Jones’ massive super cow yellowfin that weighed 372 pounds on the boat. PHOTO COURTESY VICTORIA JONES


It is now 4 a.m. The mackerels have been biting well, but most of the anglers who are fulfilling their duties of catching bait are doing it in a half-conscious state. It’s just too early for the mind to be working effectively; nevertheless, we are picking away at the mackerel, trying to catch two full tanks of these fine baits.


Five o’clock soon rolls around and I decide to pick up my Phenix Axis 760 X3H, which Ina Hwang custom-wrapped for me, coupled with an Accurate ATD 50 filled with 130-pound Izorline Spectra which my husband had just tied a fresh fluorocarbon leader top shot of 100-pound Seaguar Blue Label with a 3/0 Mustad 4X Demon circle hook. I proceed to the bait tank, request a large mackerel, and cast it off into the darkness.


Trying to control the departure speed of the mackerel that’s desperately running to escape into the deep darkness of the abyss, I thumb the line and start to see that gray light just beginning to appear on the horizon. At that moment, I realize how quiet the deck is. Only the humming of the generator reminds me that I’m on a boat.


I continue to thumb the line and start to notice how active my bait is. All of a sudden, the line begins to take off at a greater speed than a mackerel would. Something has taken my bait and is swimming away with my line at an alarming speed. I push the gear into the preset drag position, just one notch before the strike marker, and the line comes tight. I am hooked onto something, maybe a shark, but my line is running at a speed that doesn’t resemble any shark I’ve ever fought. The reel is still safely attached to my shoulder clip, but I am desperately trying to hang on.


Watching my line melt away from my reel, I see that what­-ever is on the other end of my line has peeled off 250 yards of 130-pound Spectra line in just a few minutes. Now, the line is slowing down, and I begin to raise my rod higher and move to crank the reel handle to regain some line.


I notice that the deck boss, Andrew Cates, is standing next to me trying to say something, but I can’t hear what he is saying as my mind was preoccupied with the fish on my line.


I am standing on the port side stern of the boat. Just then the fish decides to head for the starboard side, and Andrew quickly takes my rod and moves to the other side of the stern. Pande­monium ensues, and the fish decides to turn and dart all the way to the bow of the boat.


Andrew quickly reacts by carrying my rod and running at full speed to the bow. He jumps onto the bow rail of the boat and maneuvers the rod to ensure that the line has not crossed the anchor line — if it did, my fish would certainly be lost.


I’m running after Andrew and thinking to myself, “Please don’t let this fish get cut off on the anchor line.” I reach the bow and learn that my fish has run so fast and far that it cleared the anchor line and it’s now cruising at the top of the water column. I settle in to fight this fish on the bow.


Due to the height of the bow rail, I have to position myself with one knee on the deck, the rod tucked under my left arm, and my right hand free to crank the reel. I fight the fish this way for a grueling hour with the fish trying to cross the anchor line at least 4 or 5 times. Every time the fish runs to the anchor line, Andrew without fail jumps on the bow rail and tries to clear the line so it doesn’t rub against the anchor rope.


I manage to gain most of the line back from the fish, and the fish is just 100 yards from the boat. Just then, the fish decides that it doesn’t like to be so close to the boat and takes off once more. It melts away 150 yards of line from the reel again, and all I can do is hang on.


I gather all my thoughts and concentrate on regaining the lost line, telling myself, “Here we go again. Don’t let this fish defeat you. You will fight this fish and land this fish, no matter how long it takes.”


Another 30 minutes pass and the line on the reel has regained its bulk. The fish is now about 100 yards from the boat again, and the fish is showing signs of slowing its resistance. Now that I know it’s weakening, I push the preset drag up a notch to the strike mark and begin the smooth low-speed rotation of the reel handle. Andrew is coaching me and telling me the fish is finally coming in.


Suddenly, the fish dashes toward the boat, and I have to switch back to high gear on my reel. I crank the handle as fast as I possibly can to catch up with the incoming fish. Andrew then grabs my rod and we run along the side of the boat to the stern. At the starboard corner of the stern, he hands the rod back to me and I start to crank on this fish. I switch back to low gear and try to crank. I’m able to slowly rotate the reel handle. I hear someone yell, “Color!” which signals that the fish is under the stern corner. The fish is doing the circles and slowly coming into gaff range.


The next 30 minutes seem like an eternity, as Andrew coaches me on when to crank and when to rest as the tuna swims in circles under the boat. The only thing I remember is everyone yelling for me to lift my rod.


Gaffs begin to fly around me and everyone on the boat is cheering. The crew maneuvers the gaffs, all five of them, to the side gate and proceed to lift onto the boat the biggest yellowfin tuna that I have ever seen. I remember smiling, yelling, and crying at the same time. What a fight! This is what I have dreamed of for the last seven years, ever since I began fishing with my husband on long-range boats and chasing yellowfin tuna.


Many thanks to all the crew of the Red Rooster III, especially Andrew. I couldn’t have done it without them.


A quick afterword: Victoria Jones would like nothing better than to be joined by more ladies at the rail. “Other women are capable of catching big fish just as well as the men,” she says. “Especially nowadays, the tackle is so good, so well matched to the angler, anyone can catch a cow tuna with the right gear. And it’s fun.” — Eds.


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