VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach fisherman Jake Hiles fed hundreds of people with his likely record-breaking 708-pound bluefin tuna Sunday afternoon.
Hiles says he spent the weekend specifically searching for a record-breaking fish at the “tuna hole” and didn’t come home disappointed.
He recounted the trip in detail in a Facebook post before “sleeping like a zombie” later that night.
The beginning of the trip was no hint at what was to come. Hiles would go to bat with several large fish and come up empty-handed. He decided to take a nap and hopefully wake up with more luck.
Not long after, Hiles was woken up by long-time friend Jeff Landis, who let him know they had a bite. Hiles threw on his boots and got to cranking.
At that point, the clock was reading 4:17 a.m. and Hiles wouldn’t end up getting the bluefin tuna onto the boat until several hours later.
After a few complications, the pair was able to get the tuna on board and head for shore. They made a few calls on the way in as well to let everyone know of their grand catch.
80 miles later, the boat coined “Toro” arrived back at Rudee Inlet to a crowd of onlookers waiting to catch a glimpse of the potentially record-breaking tuna.
Among those in the crowd was Lewis Gillingham, the director of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. It would be up to him to compare Jake’s tuna to the last Virginia state record-holder.
Before Gillingham would arrive, the crowd watched as the two weighed their catch on their own scale to see if it would surpass the previous record of 606 pounds.
The audience waited anxiously staring down the scale, watching the needle fly pass 400 pounds. When it continued to pass the 600-pound mark, they began to cheer knowing the record was beaten.
“As the scale settled at 708 (pounds), the crowd cheered and people were coming up and shaking my hand, congratulating me, taking pictures, and celebrating the new state record,” Hiles wrote in a Facebook post.
After Gillingham was able to make his official measurements, Hiles and Landis realized they had more fish on their hands than they knew what to do with.
According to Virginia law, selling the recreationally caught tuna commercially wasn’t an option if they wanted a shot at formally breaking the state record.
So, after covering the fish with ice, the pair decided the best option was to spread the wealth!
They invited other locals to gather at the fishing center to see the fish and take home a little bit of dinner.
“Most sushi restaurants in Virginia don’t sell quality bluefin tuna because it is too expensive, and I thought it would be neat for people to come experience this amazing fish,” Hiles said.
Although the two were admittedly exhausted, they spent the next few hours cutting up and giving so much of the fish away that ‘a seagull would have struggled for a nibble’ from what remained.
When the excitement died down, Hiles says he went home, slept ‘like a zombie’ and woke up feeling blessed (and sore).
Enjoy your sushi. I just feel so blessed and lucky.Jake Hiles
Hiles has filled out forms and is waiting for Gillingham to verify that he shattered the previous 606-pound record, which was actually set by his late friend Chase Robinson.
“I was a part of the crew that caught that fish and I always thought since Chase’s passing that it would be fitting if one of Chase’s friends broke his record,” he said.