bluefin tuna he shot the fish and headed back to the boat with it .
Alone , I was diving the now famed ‘ tuna alley ’ of Guadalupe Island , Mexico . Having trouble with the then-experimental lifeguard float system , which kept deploying its 100 feet of line in the heavy swells , I pinned the line inside the float . I reasoned that if I shot a fish , I could get to the pin and release it as the buoys passed me .
A school of ten , 50-pound bluefin , 100 feet away , mesmerized me . They swam so close to the surface that they occasionally disappeared from my view in the large oceanic swells marching overhead .
Toward the end of a dive , I glanced down , beyond the reef edge into deep water and noticed two small distant tuna swimming in my direction . I froze . Slowly the tuna grew , soon becoming giants . I waited for them to get close enough to make out detail on their bodies before I took my shot . When the closest fish just started to veer away from its course toward me ( about 15 feet away ), I simultaneously thrust my four-banded gun forward and kicked . I fired . My intent was to give as much forward momentum to the near horizontal spearshaft as possible .
The fish took off so fast that it was impossible to catch my release pin as the two buoys streaked by , almost hitting me . Still joined by the pin , the buoys descended at a steep angle . Seconds later , they started to float back toward the surface , a sure sign my fish was lost . At least I could release that pesky pin .
Suddenly , the floats took off again , towing me in a large circle . I caught sight of the huge tuna , having completed a full circle on the surface , heading straight toward me . I began untangling myself from my float lines and preparing to dodge the monster fish , when it rolled over and started sinking , about 30 feet away . I struggled to stay afloat as the giant tuna ’ s dead weight kept pulling me under . Finally , the chase boat arrived with my second gun . I dove and made a good second shot securing my fish just as the last wing of the first spearhead slipped free . We lassoed the 398-pound world-record by its big tail and brought it back to the mother boat , Sand Dollar . We tied it to the boat ’ s swim step while we devised a plan to get it onboard intact .
I ’ ll never forget the unbelieving expressions on the faces of the returning divers , as one by one , they
caught sight of that monster fish hanging from the back of the boat .
In the Azores on August 19 , 1997 , Paulo Gaspar claimed the Atlantic bluefin record — 297.2 kilograms ( 655 pounds ). This is a phenomenal catch . Besides its size , what makes this record special is the character and preparation of Paulo himself — a consummate bluewater hunter .
Gaspar was born and raised in the Azores . He enjoyed all water sports , but his passion has always been diving and spearfishing . “ Big fish always fascinated me and became an obsession ,” he recalls . “ As the years went by , I began to acquire the utmost respect for the sea , and all its existence , and I adopted the attitude of a selective hunter . The risk of being attacked by a swordfish , a bluefin tuna or even a shark sparked in me a sense of adventure .”
Paulo learned from the local fishermen that the bluefin had come closer to shore and in greater numbers than anytime in 20 to 30 years . However , the fishermen cautioned Paulo that his attempt to land a giant bluefin would end in disaster . They told him of a fellow fisherman who got tangled in his fishing line . The huge tuna towed him 24 meters deep before fellow fishermen arrested his descent and pulled him and the tuna to the surface . Tragically , in the excitement , someone cut the wrong end of the line and the tuna towed the man into oblivion .
Undaunted , Gaspar never stopped thinking about capturing a giant bluefin . He became obsessed whenever he sighted bluefin underwater . He slept fitfully , ate little and spent little time with his family .
Two more tuna encounters brought him to fever pitch . With an inadequate reef gun , Paulo launched his spear at the back of a giant as it disappeared at “ supersonic ” speeds . Line ripped through Paulo ’ s hands , but in a few minutes , the fish was free , leaving Paulo with a spear bent 90 degrees and a fractured spearhead . “ I learned from this experience that I had the wrong equipment ,” he remembers . “ I was trying to shoot an elephant with a BB gun .” While waiting for an adequate bluewater speargun , Paulo had another significant tuna encounter .