Big Game Fishing, the spectacular fishing technique born in the United States in the ’30s, which has its greatest singer in the writer Ernst Hemingway, only since the ’70s has become a consolidated reality in Italy, in our seas.
There is no harbor where there is not a host of enthusiasts, more and more boats are used for Big Game deep-sea fishing. Over-equipped boats with an increasing level of sophistication, which allow you to fish tuna of unthinkable size.
But in the early days of Big Game Drifting, things weren’t like that…
In the editorial office we have a book, “Pesca del Tonno” by Daniele Benfenati, the first Italian bible of this type of fishing. And we read with great pleasure and admiration the story of the birth of Italian Big Game Drifting. Here is an excerpt from this adventure of fishing at sea at the dawn of the 70s, which can be catalogued in the story as the first Italian drifting fishing (Big Game). (*)
“A medical colleague from Santa Margherita Ligure tells my father that he heard that in France, in Port de Bouc, at the mouth of the Rhone, professional fishermen fish giant tuna with rod and reel! At home we had no choiche!
Father looks like an animal in a cage, he doesn’t rest, he keeps saying over and over again that if he could see even for a moment as those in Port de Bouc do, he would be sure to catch at least one. At the beginning of August, I go home on holiday. One evening, at dinner, I take him at his word: tomorrow morning I’ll take you to Port de Bouc! We’ll leave in the morning. In less than 8 hours we grind the over 900 km and, in the early afternoon, we arrive in a fantastic village.
With four words of French and two of Bolognese, we reach the fish market where we find a characteristic character, willing to take us on his boat to see how to fish le Ton Rouge.
At 5 a.m. the next morning we leave. The boat is like a pontooned wooden gozzo with inboard. Near the helm we see the rods bolted to the deck. They protrude from the edge all along the shaft, they have huge loop loops, 16/0 Penn Senator reel, 1.60mm nylon and hook tied directly to the nylon.
A couple of miles from the coast, our commander stops, extracts two mackerels from a bucket and proceeds to the (for us then) complicated operation of priming with a rather curious equipment: wool crochet, brass tube (deboner), knife, needle and thread.
Once the first bait is finished, the commander has my father perform the second one, and as a good doctor he does it perfectly. We begin to tow at 2 or 3 knots in a calm sea, with greenish water and not too clear, in the company of other boats similar to ours.
That day we didn’t get the tuna, but we could still see two boats with “tuna in the barrel” and we understood the power of those beasts. The local fishermen, once the fish has been sharred (they sharred themselves), stop the engine and let the fish run away and use the reel as a winch, every now and then they give two or three turns of the crank leaving the tuna to tire itself, the only worry is to keep the nylon always in pull. By the time the tuna arrives under the boat it is already practically exhausted and is simply refined.
The very positive day had taught my father everything there was to know about tuna fishing, he put the rest to us afterwards. We returned home the same day with enthusiasm and the conviction that our Po Delta was a paradise. We had to wait until the following year for the first catch! On August 15, 1971, Father, Furio and my sister-in-law went out to sea at dawn.
The sea is a table, the deaf thud of the tuna can be heard a few miles away. The trigger prepared at Port de Bouc is perfect, a few minutes of towing on the blue water’s edge and here is the ferrata!
It is certain that the obstinate determination for that much coveted catch prevailed.
Without a chair and without a combat belt, my brother at the bow sitting on the barrel to retrieve the nylon that had slipped off, my father at the wheel to hold the boat in the direction, after more than three hours they were right about that beast. On the scales, he weighed 152 kilos. The enthusiasm was such that they loaded the fish into the trunk of the car, with the whole tail protruding, and took it home to feast on it with their friends, incredulous of that catch.
In the following days my father and my brother built the fighting chair, the raffio, and designed a shoulder belt to be able to fight with more sportiness, but also with more ease. It should be kept in mind that at that time in Italy there were no magazines specialized in the Big Game, nor equipment stores, and therefore, inventiveness and imagination were crucial. My father, moreover, embalmed the head of his first tuna, which I still keep as a relic.
Almost every year he captured his giant. In 1974 my mother was also lucky enough to take part, in the role of skipper, in another one of his captures. Every tuna caught was donated to the Asilo or to the Cooperativa Pescatori di Scardovari. After each catch she put away her sea gear and dedicated herself to trout or black bass. One catch a year made him happy and satisfied and he did not feel the need or the desire to ask for more.
In the years that followed he had many followers. In 1982 he founded the Barricata Tuna Club with the intent to convey that enthusiasm, loyalty and determination worthy of a true Angler. He has always fought against pollution and irresponsible catches, capable only of depleting the sea. He taught us sportiness, modesty and respect for the sea.
Nowadays, techniques and equipment have evolved, fishing clubs are proliferating and every small port is full of fisherman equipped for deep-sea fishing. The Big Game is an indisputable reality in the Italian seas. We owe a little of this to him too!“.
Daniele Benfenati (excerpt from the website www.barricatafshingclub.it)
(*) L’esercizio della pesca sportiva del tonno è consentita esclusivamente ai natanti iscritti in un apposito elenco presso la Direzione generale della pesca e dell’acquacultura. […] La pesca sportiva del tonno rosso, esercitata esclusivamente dalle navi inserite nell’elenco di cui al comma 1, è consentita nel periodo dal 1° maggio al 30 settembre. […]