Feature Article: The 300sAre Coming


BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Aug 09, 2017

For the first time since ’83, super cow bluefin are boated in local U.S. waters

AN EPIC SCENE, with the business end of a 10/0 Owner J hook buried in the corner of the 360-pound bluefin’s mouth as the sun slowly fades toward the horizon. The battle lasted from about 6 to 9 p.m. before the three anglers pulled the super cow over the rail.

OCEANSIDE —El Niño condi­tions spanning the last two years brought with it truly epic fishing to our local saltwater battlegrounds not seen in decades — and the fallout from the natural phenomenon is breaking new ground not seen since the early ’80s. This week, for the first time since 1983, 300-plus-pound bluefin tuna were decked in local U.S. waters via rod and reel — with at least 4 confirmed super cows making their way over the rail as of press time, topped by the epic catch of a mondo bluefin that weighed 358.9 pounds after being bled and weighed the following morning after being put on the deck.

The angler having the unique distinction of putting the first local super cow bluefin on the deck was Greg Trompas, who did so with a 316.2-pound monster tuna on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 26 — the first 300-plus bluefin off California’s coast since the Chicken McNugget was invented. Not all that far away from Trompas and just a couple of hours later, a 360-pound beast came over the rail of fisherman Jay Kristensen''s 22-foot Chris-Craft, landed by Chris Lilis with an assist from buddy Clyde S., marking new territory for the Southern Cali­fornia sportfishing fleet on the whole. When Saturday morning rolled around, another 300 had been gaffed, a 306 pounder aboard the Testa Dura — the same boat that put a hulking 289 in the kill bag just a few weeks ago. Then later on Saturday, the boat Karma added a fourth blue over 300 pounds at 333. And after three and a half decades, just like that, in the flash of an (hook) eye, a quartet of 300-pound bluefin tuna caught in local waters made their way into SoCal's sportfishing history books, breaking new ground not seen for practically two generations.

“We got out there a little later than we wanted after launching out of Oceanside,” said Chris Lilis, who was the primary angler on the big, 360-pound tuna for the majority of the nearly-3-hour fight. “It was blowing kind of gnarly out there but we got a call on the radio saying that the weather had died down a little bit and that a buddy of ours had missed one and got another, a 240 pounder. Heading out west from the island [San Clemente], I said to Jay [Kristensen], 'something special is about to happen here.'


GREG TROMPAS BOATED the first of four 300-plus-pound bluefin tuna in U.S. waters, a 316-pound brute that he tied into mid-afternoon on July 26.

“I fished out in the same zone on Monday, and we just got our asses kicked,” Kristensen said. “When we got close to Clemente, it was blowing 15 to 20 knots and nasty. We were about to head home and were about 4 or 5 miles east of the island when we got the radio call that the winds were starting to die down and that we needed to ‘GET OUT HERE!’ I ended up snapping three welds on my tower out there.”

After making their way to the big game hunting grounds, the trio of anglers aboard Kristensen's 22-foot Chris-Craft deployed the kite and a Maguro Flyer, only to get blown up on by no fewer than 15 bluefin tuna from 80 to 300 pounds in a span of just 40-plus minutes.

“The blow-ups were just nuts,” said Kristensen. “It was like someone was up on the top of Clemente [Island] firing down RPGs! We got one of those blowups to stick, but the hook pulled.”

“It was crazy!” Lilis said. “We'd somehow missed all those fish, including the one we hooked, and we were sending the bait and kite back out again when there was what seemed like a little wave going in the wrong direction near our Flyer. The kite wasn't even really flying yet and the bait was maybe 100 yards from the boat at most when it happened. Just two seconds later, this big tuna comes clear out of the water and Jay cranked down on the reel and swung on it like it was a bass. Then it was ON!” The big bluefin bite came at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

Crew member Clyde S., who hadn't boated a monster tuna before, got on the rod first, absorbing the brunt of the huge tuna's initial runs before handing the stick to Lilis, who battled the beast for about an hour before taking a 15-minute break and getting right back into the hot seat, so to speak.

“I knew it was a good one, but we really had no idea how big,” Lilis continued. “About another hour and change later, I had the fish close to the boat, about two cranks from the swivel, but I was gassed. I knew I definitely couldn't be the first one to try and stick a gaff in it. When I got it close enough to the boat, Jay grabbed the leader just like it was a marlin and pulled it in close to gaff.”

“Chris had the thing at 40 pounds of drag but he just couldn’t move the fish,” Kristensen added. “It was absolutely taco’d, so I just grabbed the leader and pulled it in straight billfish style. Clyde hit the fish with the first gaff, a square shot right in the eyeball,” Kristensen added. “Then I got another one in it. Chris was spent, but I said we needed another gaff in the fish and he stuck the tuna, too.

“We knew it was a good fish — ‘maybe a 250 or so, I thought’ — but it didn’t look all that big in the dark,” Kristensen continued. “Then we rolled it over. We were like, ‘WTF!?’ The thing was seriously like the diameter of a horse!”

The trio of anglers all heaved together and suddenly the head and gills were over the rail. The fish was almost home. “One more pull with everything we had and the tuna came flying over the rail,” Kristensen said. “The thing comes lunging over the rail as we all fall backwards, and the fish comes directly at Chris, mouth wide open! He was pale white and seriously thinking that he might have a huge J hook in his leg. The fish just absolutely had me and Clyde pinned to the deck. We all just laid there for a few minutes, just totally spent.”

“Man, it was absolute chaos!” Lilis added. “But at about 9 o’clock, after three hours, we had the huge fish on the deck.

“Not too long afterward, we taped the fish out and I started punching the numbers into my phone,” Lilis went on, “and when I saw what it said, my jaw dropped — 360.8 pounds! Just unbelievable! That fish was just MEAN, too. About 80 yards from the boat, he was just sitting there. He didn't want any part of coming to us.” The fish taped out with a fork length of 75 inches and a girth of 62 inches.


JAY KRISTENSEN HAS the distinction of being the boat owner of the vessel that landed the biggest bluefin tuna off California’s coast since October, 1983.

“It was just awesome,” he added. “An awesome exper­ience. I've experienced just about everything out on the ocean fishing — 50-pound yellows, a 13-pound calico — but to be able to do something like this with these guys that I consider my family... it's pretty damned special. I got to give all the credit in the world to Jay. He's got his boat completely dialed in and everything was just perfect. This huge fish was really all Jay's doing. I can't give him enough credit for this fish.”

With the boat 360 pounds heavier via the mondo bluefin, the anglers put the fish on ice and started making their way back to port sometime around 10:30 p.m.

“We were all just in shock,” Kristensen said when the group finally started to head for home. “The whole way home, we were just like giddy little schoolgirls. It was just unreal.”

The behemoth bluefin was weighed the next morning after being bled. It first maxed out a 330-pound scale at 8 a.m. before Kristensen’s buddy brought down another certified scale, and the tuna officially checked in at 358.9 pounds. The largest bluefin caught in California waters since ’83 ate an 8-inch Maguro Flyer rigged with a single Owner 10/0 J hook, and was winched in on a Seeker OSP3X rod with a Shimano Tiagra 50W reel on 130-pound braid to a 400-pound-test leader, and the beast took nearly all of 3 hours to bring to gaff.

“To be honest, I just feel so lucky,” Kristensen said. “I mean, hundreds of boats have been out there, so for us to get this one was something special, especially how it happened. The fact that the fish ate the bait just 80 or so yards from the boat is pretty much the only reason we put it on the deck. I don’t think we would have ever landed that thing if we hooked it where I would normally send out the kite.

“I fish with Chris all the time and he’s like a brother to me, so to have this go down the way it did with guys I consider family — just too awesome,” Kristensen said.

Word of the near-360 and the 316 caught earlier in the day began trickling out on social media by Thursday morning, surely being more than enough motivation for countless others to head out and try and get in on the super cow action — and a few other boats managed to capitalize. On Friday, the Testa Dura put a 306-pound bluefin in the kill bag, and a 333 came over the rail of the boat Karma the following day.

Before this past week’s quartet of 300-plus-pound bluefin, the last time a super cow was taken in U.S. waters was when angler Jim Salter of the Balboa Anglers’ Club checked in a 363.5 pounder in October of 1983.

Any time you can manage to pull something off that hasn’t been accomplished in nearly 3½ decades, you’ve had yourself one hell of a day on the water. And the fact that it happened four times in four days after that long? Four tuna of a lifetime in less than 96 hours’ time? Well, that’s just some kind of special now. These are indeed the days…

TESTA DURA GOT on the 300-pound BFT scoreboard with this 306 pounder, caught on Friday, July 28.

goodkarmaGOOD KARMA — The most recent of 4 super cow bluefin this past week in U.S. waters, a 333 aboard Karma, boated this past Saturday.


THE TAPE NUMBERS don’t lie. Angler Chris Lilis was beyond stoked to have these numbers pop up on his cell after punching in the huge tuna’s measurements.