The prospect of spearing a world record tuna is considered by many a spearfisher the ultimate accomplishment in this sport.
Oregon Freediver John Cheesman came within ounces of accomplishing that feat August 4 along the Oregon Coast.
Cheesman, an avid freediver and owner of Seasports Dive center in Springfield, Oregon was approximately 35 miles off the southern Oregon Coast, when a charter he was leading came upon a large school of Albacore tuna. "I have been involved with underwater hunting for 10 years" said Cheesman. "And five of those years have been spent hunting these tuna off the Oregon Coast".
His patience and determination resulted in a 20.5 pound Albacore tuna. This has been compared to catching a hummingbird barehanded while holding your breath.
"There’s been maybe 20 taken this way in the whole history of the world" says Terry Maas, himself a world record holder for spearing a 398 pound Blue Fin Tuna in 1982. He is also a member of the International Bluewater Spearfishing Records Committee and an authority on the sport of breathhold spearfishing.
"His (Cheesmans) is very nearly a world record. It was just a few ounces short of one caught by a fellow in Australia". Maas said. "It’s a remarkable acheivement. So much so that he’s in line for a meritorious award from our organization".
Cheesman has tried many different ways to approach these fish, which can travel up to 50 mph when needed. These included swimming to them, which didn’t work at all.
He found that by trailing a jigging system from fishing poles rigged on his 30 foot Boston Whaler, the Seasports 1, he was able to attract them in close enough so that he could drop in the water with his Riffe gun and pursue his quarry. "The only way to target these fish is to jump in the water when they’re present and hope that one swims past" said Cheesman.
And his hopes were met with his catch.
Now that he has accomplished one of his goals as a Bluewater hunter, what is his next quarry?
"Halibut" Cheesman said. "They can get VERY BIG."
And anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows, Fresh Halibut barbequed is considered a little slice of heaven.