Jeremy Walker from Te Awamutu landed the 305.8kg fish at 2.00am on Sunday morning with the help of the other four men onboard.
“I’ve never caught one before. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime fish, I think,” said Mr Walker.
Fishing boat skipper David Donald, from Marokopa, said he had seen tuna that size go for as much as US$80,000 at the Tokyo fish markets.
“They slice it up real thin and have it as sashimi.”
“And the Japanese fishermen, they take everything off the fish. Even the eyeballs. I’ve seen them scrape down the bones with a teaspoon and then ask if they could finish ours off.”
Earlier this year, a 342kg bluefin tuna sold for a record US$396,000 on the Japanese market.
Yesterday, on the back of a Rutherford’s Meat Processing truck, Mr Walker’s catch was chopped up into large triangular chunks so all five people on the trip could take some home.
“We usually only take one of the ones we catch and tag the others and let them go.
“There’s plenty of meat on one to slab up into steaks to put on the barbecue,” Mr Donald said.
Stocks of the fish have declined in recent years, with the species considered endangered by a host of environmental groups, but Mr Donald said fishing of bluefin tuna is “pretty well controlled in New Zealand”.
“It’s the overseas trawlers out with longlines and 20,000 hooks, just out of our waters that are doing the damage,” he said.
The Pacific bluefin tuna is known to head to waters off the West Coast of the South Island to feed on hoki being caught by commercial fishermen.
Mr Donald often takes his mates out fishing on his 12-metre boat the Crazy Horse when he’s not running charters out of Kawhia.
He said it took Mr Walker only one hour and 50 minutes to reel the fish in on his Okuma Makaira composite rod with 60kg line and circle hooks.
Mr Donald also said the fish probably shed a few kilos on the way up to Taranaki.
“It probably would’ve been heavier if we’d taken it straight in at Westport – it’s lost a lot of blood,” he said.
However, he wanted to stop and see his old fishing friend Wayne Fairhurst, who owns Hunting and Fishing in New Plymouth.
Greenpeace reports that they have caught a 110kg fisherman further out in the Pacific and have chopped him up for bait. There are also reports that Sea Shepherd activist steaks have been selling in Tokyo meat markets for up to $50 a kilo.