NORTHPORT -- Franklyn Fraser admits he caught some good-natured teasing as he untied from the dock in Northport in spilling rain early Wednesday and set out for North Cape in darkness to catch a tuna.
“You’ll never catch anything,” he recalls some of the ribbing.
The crowd was bigger and the excitement higher, though, when he returned to port eight hours later, around 1 p.m. towing a 619 pound tuna.
What made his catch so noteworthy is that he hooked his fish from a 28-foot open boat that was built in 1949.
Franklyn and his wife Annabelle spent most of the winter restoring the craft which they bought last summer.
“I don’t care if I ever go again,” said Fraser in re-living the thrill of the day.
He said it was actually easier to fight a tuna with the little boat than it was with the larger boats he has fished in. The boat was small enough and light enough, he explained that it simply went wherever the hooked tuna chose to go.
Although he sailed out alone, he had some help during the fight. Fellow Northport fisherman Doug Fraser had offered to help him out if he hooked a tuna. “I signaled with my cap and he came on board,” Franklyn said. Once they had the fish alongside, after less than an hour’s fight, Doug returned to his own boat to continue his fishing activity and Franklyn began the slow two and a half hour sail with the tuna in tow. Although some fishermen tow their fish to port, most hoist them aboard their boats. He said there was no way and no room for him to do so.
Annabelle was on the wharf, excited to see him return with a fish but she chuckled that she had told her husband that if she had known he was going to take the boat tuna fishing she might not have spent the winter helping him to restore it.
There was a lot of work to do, including replacing rotting planks and rebuilding the top section of the craft.
The boat was built by Howard Clark in 1949 for Fred and Gordon White who used it primarily for hunting. Charlie Fraser bought the boat after retiring. It was subsequently turned over to a grandson of the builder and last year obtained by the Frasers.
The 63 year-old Northport resident has been fishing since he was 12, but, even then, he said, the boats being used were bigger than his 28-footer. He enjoyed taking it to the fishing grounds and was not the least bit concerned that there was no radio or other electronics on board. He relied on a flashlight with a green and a red bulb to guide him in the darkness and to alert other boats to his presence.