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Tuna Fishing in Madeira

[The possibilities of tuna fishing at Madeira] were first suggested, early in 1905, by Colonel Stead, who, having caught tunny on the handlines used by the Portuguese fishermen, asked whether they could not also be taken, as in California, on the rod.  I made the attempt that spring, but was foredoomed to fail, not only because the natural conditions were, and still are, against success, but also because the native fishermen purposely put me off the track, for fear, as they afterwards admitted, that my success might attract too many fishermen to compete on their grounds.  As a matter of fact, however, the deep water and rough seas present great difficulties, and even a resident sportsman like Mr Charles Cossart, with daily opportunities of fishing all through the year, and considerable experience of the work, wrote to me recently that the prospects were no more hopeful than seven years earlier.
 
"I have had no luck with the rod since you were here...I had a much larger fish (estimated by my boatman at 180 lbs.) on for an hour and a quarter.  I got the fish alongside, but the gaff did not hold, and the fish, diving beneath the boat, broke the line on the bilge keel.  I hooked it on the top of the water, after which it made one slight run.  Then I turned it, and it simply bored straight down, taking out nearly all the line.  There could not, in fact, have been twenty feet left on the reel.  Its next move was to swim away for some time, with the boat in tow, and then I managed to start bringing it up, 'pumping' it American fashion, till I got it close to the boat.  It was very tiring work, and not particularly amusing.  I have been out many times, but never again touched one with the rod, though I had some luck with the handline.  Last June, a tunny weighing just short of a thousand pounds was caught here, and it took four men about five or six hours getting it in.  I fear the water hereabouts is too deep for the rod.  The fish has to be hooked right at the surface, as, if it should take the bait in from sixty to ninety fathoms of water, there would not be enough line left on the reel [no tuna reel had hitherto been devised to hold more than 1,200 feet of strong enough line] to play it afterwards, as it only knows one trick, that of diving headlong as far as it can go."