Bigeye Tuna

(Thunnus obesus): WILD CAUGHT

THE AZORES ARE AN IMPORTANT MIGRATORY DESTINATION FOR MANY PELAGIC SPECIES AND BIGEYE TUNA ARE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SUSTAINABLE SPECIES TARGETED HERE BY ROD AND REEL. This is one of the few dayboat fisheries for ultra fresh, high quality, “Number One” sushi-grade tuna. Most Bigeye tuna caught and landed in Americas are by longline trip boats that produce low grade quality. It is impossible to catch tuna by long line in a selective manner, resulting in many undersize fish. The sustainable fishery in the Azores produces some of the largest Bigeye in the world, averaging 180 to 200lbs, and 300lb fish are not uncommon. Local coastlines with deep water and submarine reefs hold huge quantities of baitfish that result in desirable fat production for the tunas. Although a schooling fish, many of the giant Bigeyes prefer to swim solitary. Catching Bigeye by rod and reel takes an expert hand. Fisherman who hunt the large Bigeye search for an underwater reef or seamount that holds schools of herring or hake, their primary food source. Live bait is jigged on site, kept alive, and secured to the single hook used and held at the desired depth by a float, most often a balloon. Placement depth of the bait is determined by the fishermen’s expertise of the swimming pattern of the tunas. Tuna tend to “drive” the bait fish with speed with mouths open. Missing a baited hook is not uncommon if the placement is not separated from the main bait school. Large Bigeye tunas are wary and sensitive to color and “sighting “a line in the water. Thin, high tension fluorocarbon lines are used to reduce visibility of the baited hooks. Hooks are sometimes painted red to simulate wounded or bleeding live bait. Large reels that hold up to a mile of line are used to overcome the speed and power of a large tuna that can swim up to speeds of 60 miles an hour. The quality of the tuna meat is ultimately determined by the time it takes for the tuna to stop its fight to be killed and iced on the boat. The Bigeye can increase its body temperature during a fight, producing lactic acids that “cook” the flesh. The flesh then becomes brown quickly with a grainy and undesirable texture. Once the fish is boated, it is extremely important to kill the nerves that control stress. This is done by inserting a wire or stiff monofilament line done the spinal cord once the fish has been headed. The fish is then dressed and cleaned immediately onboard. Other techniques used to “calm” the fish from stress have also been used, including Tail roping the fish and towing it slowly beside the boat to reduce the fish’s lactic acid production. At Browne Trading, every tuna we purchase is graded on site to confirm its #1 Grade quality rating. We use a sashibo (a Japanese-made sharp metal probe that removes a thin core from the fish) and evaluate the flesh for color, visible fat content, and texture. Once it passes our inspection, we commit to the purchase of the fish. We butcher our fish here at our facility. Full-flavored and steak like, with moist and large flakes, Bigeye is perfect served as sushi, carpaccio or tartare, or lightly seared on the grill or broiler.

Catch Region: Azore Islands

Seasonality: Year Round

Catch Method: Hook & Line by Rod & Reel

Yield (Fillet Percentage as Loin): 75%

Flavor Profile: Full Flavor – Hearty

Texture Profile: Firm

Substitute:

  • Bluefin or Yellowfin Tuna
  • Swordfish
  • Hamachi