Outer Hebrides tuna fisherman becomes US TV star

AN OUTER Hebridean tuna fishing skipper has become the unlikely star of a hit US TV show.
Angus Campbell with the 515lb bluefin tuna. Picture: WINAAngus Campbell with the 515lb bluefin tuna. Picture: WINA
Angus Campbell with the 515lb bluefin tuna. Picture: WINA

Captain Angus Campbell, whose lilting accent is subtitled on the Outdoor Channel’s Trev Gowdy’s Monsterfish, landed a rare 515lb bluefin tuna off the Scottish coast back in 2013.

This prompted sceptical American fishing expert Fred Lavitman to come and check out the situation in Scotland which is better known for its salmon and trout.

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Captain Campbell, who lives on Harris, reveals how large bluefin tuna have become more noticeable chasing shoals of mackerel off the coast of the Outer Hebrides in recent years.

He said: “It worked out quite well. They contacted me to make the programme which is huge in America. Fred had a great time and caught a real beauty. I think there are thousands that run off here.

“This is not even the most northerly extent of where the tuna go. There are reports of them now being caught in Iceland. They are following the feed - like mackerel, herring and sprats - and going as far as the water temperature allows them.”

Asked how he felt about being subtitled for viewers of the channel which is available to more 39 million US households, he added: “I’m not surprised they used subtitles. I did have a bit of a laugh about it. Anybody out of their own country they seem to need subtitles. But I didn’t mind. I was just myself.”

The 53-year-old, who runs Kilda Cruises, believes Scotland could do more to capitalise on the rise of tuna off the west coast and he hopes to establish a tuna fishery of around 10 tonnes - or about 40 fish - in the area.

Atlantic bluefins are warm-blooded, a rare trait among fish, and are comfortable in the cold waters off Newfoundland, as well as the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea, where they go each year to spawn.

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Captain Campbell believes each fish would be worth £10,000 each if he were allowed to keep a limited number.

“Europe has a quota of 18,000 tons so we are seeking a small quota in comparison and our commercial angling - if we are allowed to develop it - will be catch and release,” he said.

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“The UK used to have a commercial tuna fishery way back based in Scarborough. In fact the first fish to be tinned in Britain was tuna.”

During the programme Mr Lavitman expresses his doubt about finding tuna in Scotland, which the narrator describes as better known for “salmon and haggis and kilts and bagpipes until now bluefin tuna would be the last thing to be thought of as Scottish. But the times are a changing.”

“I am not convinced there are tuna around here,” admitted Mr Lavitman as he heads out to St Kilda in the film.

But after he hooks a 500lb monster - which eventually broke his 400lb line - he said: ”I have to admit I was being a little bit pessimistic. I really was not thinking it would happen. There’s tuna fish in these waters Angus!”

He eventually catches a monster, which is satellite tagged by Marine Scotland, there is also dramatic footage of tuna shoals chasing prey off the Outer Hebrides.

It was back in September 2013, that Captain Campbell landed what is believed to be the first rod-line tuna caught off Scotland.

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However the skipper had to throw more than £200,000 of tuna back into the sea - because he is not allowed to sell them.

Mr Campbell even admits that a 515lb monster he kept - after it had swallowed the hook too far to be released - was given away to locals on Harris, despite being offered £80,000 by a Scottish chef for it.