Tuna photo for Thursday Outdoors

Kaleb Richardson, left, the 14-year-old son of Keith Richardson, center, and Kevin Alexander, a deckhand on the Richardson's boat 'Who Dat,' give the thumbs up after Kaleb Richardson battled this 835-pound bluefin tuna in offshore waters Saturday off the Louisiana coast.

Who Dat?

No not as in “Who dat sayin’ dey gonna beat dem Saints,” but who dat sayin’ dey gonna outdo Who Dat in da Gulf a Mexico wahders dis year.

Dat’s because Keith Richardson, or more precisely his 14-year-old son Kaleb, has set the bar extra high in the latter days of April.

Kaleb was on the rod when Keith Richardson’s handsome offshore cruiser, “Who Dat,” was on a four-day trip well into the offshore waters off the Louisiana coast late last week.

Daddy Keith, a Lafayette businessman, said the crew already had a handsome catch of yellowfin tuna — he described them as, “a few big guys,” and had hooked up on two blue marlin, got one of them to the boat before the always honorable action of tagging and releasing the billfish. The crew then started heading back toward home port at Grand Isle.

“We stopped at Neptune and the (boat’s) captain (Chris Mowad) saw one big tuna busting on bait,” Keith Richardson said. “We thought is was a big yellowfin.”

Richardson’s narrative including setting up the trolling spread and setting course for the spot where they saw all the action around Neptune, one of the massive, deep-water oil platforms off the Louisiana coast.

“A fish came up on the center line, but didn’t take it, so we came back over the same spot again, and the fish looked like a submarine coming up to get the bait,” he said.

It’s here where you can guess most dedicated offshore anglers have never seen a giant bluefin tuna in the trolling spread to know what a huge fish looks like in the seconds before its attack. Nor would most know any comparison, so liking it to a submarine certainly paints an exciting enough picture of what happened on the “Who Dat” in the next several seconds.

“For the first 10 minutes, the bluefin fought like a blue marlin,” Keith Richardson said. “It stayed on top, then, I guess, it figured out it was hooked and sounded.”

“Sounded” is a term for a big fish digging into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes running to 1,000-foot depths, and tearing most of the line off the biggest of offshore reels.

“The fish never got to the backing on the reel,” Richardson said. “And I credit that to the young man on the rod.”

In all likelihood, Kaleb Richardson, though just 14, has as much experience fighting monster offshore species as anyone in the state.

“We’ve caught bluefin in Nova Scotia, and a couple of them were ‘granders,’ (bluefins in excess of 1,000 pounds), and Kaleb was well prepared and well practiced on how to catch bluefin,” Keith Richardson said.

Aside: Kaleb Richardson was honored by the International Game Fish Association at the group’s annual banquet in February. By the time he reached 13, he’d already battled 75 billfish.

“It was unreal,” the elder Richardson said. “He got the fish to the boat in 45 minutes on an ‘80’ (reel) with 100-pound test line. Kaleb knew the techniques and how much pressure to put on the fish.

“(Kaleb) is maybe 115 pounds, and I’ll put him up against any adult angler.”

It was at that moment, when the fish was at the stern of the “Who Dat” that the thrill of the catch was over the work began.

“We couldn’t pull the fish into the boat, and we were fortunate that JJ Tabor had a come-along on his boat. I have one on my boat but we couldn’t get to it,” Richardson said. “JJ gave us his come-along and we used it to get the fish far enough into the boat to swing the tail in. It was exciting.”

After leaving Grand Isle last Wednesday, the crew returned early Sunday morning, had a state Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologist meet them on the island Sunday to complete the identification process and weigh this once-in-a-lifetime catch off the Louisiana coast.

835 pounds!

If accepted by the State Top 10 Fish Records committee — four members of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association — Kaleb Richardson’s catch likely will move into fourth place on the state record list.

“And thank goodness the biologist has a reciprocating saw, because you can hardly cut through the skin of a bluefin with a knife. It took us three hours to clean the fish.”

Bluefin note

To catch and keep a bluefin tuna, the boat must have a federal pelagic fish permit, which, Keith Richardson said, “allows you a couple of months to harvest one bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Every year these regulations change, but (federal regulations have) been steady in the Gulf for the last few years,” he said. “The odds are very slim you’ll find one and catch one, but you have to have the permit.”

Richardson said when a bluefin is taken you must call in a report on a tune-landing hotline.

“It was the first bluefin we’ve caught in the Gulf,” he said. “We’ve chartered in Nova Scotia and caught maybe 15 over the last few years.

“But what a week, and a weekend it was,” he said.