"All right then. What's the record for bluefin tuna?"
"Coffin's 1,120," he said.
"But that's 400 pounds smaller than the marlin. You just said that bluefin got bigger."
"They do. A bluefin went into Provincetown Harbor 10 years ago, into the herring nets, and tore everything to pieces—the nets, the dories, half a dozen outboard motor boats. The fishermen had their shotguns out and gunned away at the fish with double-0 buckshot for 15 minutes. The harbor was full of blood by the time they finally killed it. They dragged it up on the beach, cut it up and by the time somebody heard about it and got down there to weigh it every kitchen in Provincetown had fresh tuna for a week. I've seen a picture of the carcass."
It was a good story, but if you've done much fishing you know about that sort of thing. Everything you ever heard about "fishing stories" is true. I said, "But if there's no reliable documentation, how can you be sure they get any bigger than the 1,120 you told me about?"
"There's plenty of documentation. In July 1923 the Boston Evening Transcript reported a bluefin that weighed 1,600 pounds. Bigelow and Schroeder got their information for Fishes of the Gulf of Maine from seiners and say that fish of 1,000 pounds are not uncommon."
I smiled to myself because I remembered that Mr. Cunningham had said "fish of 500 pounds" were not uncommon and I said so. Paul said, "My father was talking about bluefin caught on rod and reel."
"Well," I said, "if they get as big as you say, how come nobody's caught one? Marlin are not exactly pushovers, but the bluefin record isn't even close."
For the first time Paul looked up from the line he was working on. "Because they're too tough." Then he held the line up between two fingers. "And there's only 850 yards of this on a reel."
I'd been willing to admit the existence of the 2,664-pound white shark and the 1,560-pound black marlin, even the 1,600-pound bluefin, but the 850 yards got to me because I'd played football. If you've ever played football much you've got a problem because you've only got one distance in your head—100 yards. You go through life estimating distances by so many football fields, or halves of football fields, and if you're a quarterback you know what 10 yards is the way you know when you have to go to the men's room. So there I was, being told "only" 850 yards, "only" 8� football fields. Most pro running backs don't gain that much in a full season. Think of it, with 30 more yards, you'd have half a mile. I wondered how long it would take a tuna to do the half mile.